Government Gibberish 1: Swee Say’s 3 Points About CPF
I am taking up PM Lee’s suggestion that ‘someone… collects examples, and help us do better’. It will be by way of commentary rather than a dedicated website as I am no IT geek.
By no means am I best qualified to do the task. Hence, I welcome anyone who will contribute to the observations and correct me where I may miss something or be wrong. Hopefully, our common interest in and concern for effective communication by our leaders will make up for when I should fall short.
To minimize endless arguments over semantics, we shall apply Lee Kuan Yew’s standards in our evaluation, namely, ‘avoid confusion and give words their ordinary meanings.’
We shall try to measure ministers’ words in ‘their ordinary meanings’.
As life would have it, Minister Lim Swee Say gets the honour to kick this off.
“the CPF is your money”, here Swee Say echoes his Manpower Minister colleague, Tan Chuan-Jin. He then goes further, elaborating ‘Nobody can take away that money from you.”
Here’s the gibberish.
If something is ‘your(s)’ it means that it ‘belongs to you’, you ‘own’ it. Hence, in the ordinary meaning of ‘ownership’, the owner would have the undisputed right to do what she pleases with it. But this is not so with CPF. More and more CPFers are realizing that their ‘right’ to their own CPF money has been heavily curtailed, cut – how the money is invested, the rate of return for use of their money, how one chooses to use what has been agreed originally to be withdrawn at 55 etc.
Therefore, Swee Say is clearly saying something that is truthy (seems to be, but not necessarily true) but not true in the ordinary meaning of the words used.
“your money with CPF is 100 percent safe and continues to earn risk-free interest, even during challenging times such as the global financial crisis in 2009.”
It is correct that our CPF ‘continues to earn… interest’.
However, we must take exception to the claim that it is “100% safe… and risk-free”. Nobody honest in the field of investments can, should or will claim any money placed with any entity, individual or group, is ‘100% safe and risk-free’.
But, we must be fair to Swee Say. His words can, in some context like the one he uttered, off-the-cuff and to ordinary citizens, be taken to ordinarily mean ‘very safe’ even if it is not true, legally-speaking. So, we can tolerate the lax.
However, measuring that by his own PM’s standard that even in ‘an informal conversation… (to) not impress anyone. Use simple language which people can understand’, he falls short. Therefore, Swee Say should have uttered ‘your money with CPF is AAA-rated, that is very safe and earn 2.5% interest even during….’
The question then arises, “Why are we paying Swee Say more than S$1.1mil per month if he is ignorant or wilfully negligent to be specific where he surely can be on such an important issue for citizens?”
“the less you make use of your money when you are young, the more money you will have for retirement… It is clear in this context that ‘young’ refers to those who are aged 55 and ‘less use’ of the CPF money refers to the CPF cash withdrawal for purposes other than housing, healthcare and education for the children.”
Someone else has already called out Swee Say’s disingenuous use of ‘young’ to refer to ‘those aged 55’. [Link]
So, no need to belabour the point. We would just suggest that hearers would have been better off with, ‘the less you make use of your money for other purposes when you turn 55, the more you will have for retirement’.
So, what should we make of these 3 shortfalls?
He reportedly also said, ”the labour movement has been watching the debate closely, and wants to ensure that what is discussed does not create confusion among workers and union leaders.”
It would appear to the average hearer/reader that Swee Say has done exactly the opposite of what he claimed to want to ensure, i.e. create more confusion instead of less!
Hence, the truth behind his words appears to be to ‘confuse’ or obfuscate in order to hide something about the CPF. What can that be, now he has left us wondering.
That’s gibberish for you.