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A Voice for our asset-rich, cash-poor seniors…


Calvin Cheng, the NMP who only resigned from Young PAP after it was reported that he remained one despite his NMP status, has written a letter in the ST forum [see below] demanding that ‘other taxpayers should not be funding the sentimentality of people in long-term asset-rich, cash-poor positions’.

Déjà vu a la Wee Shu-Min
It reminds me of Wee Shu-Min’s ‘get out of my elitist face’ rant at Derek Wee whose observations have proven prophetic about the deluge of FT upending PMETs in SG. That was in 2006. Where we are today proves that this govt has completely ignored the feedback from that internationally-reported episode of a PAP MP’s daughter kicking a fellow citizen in the face for voicing a genuine concern.

Is history repeating itself now with Calvin Cheng again trying to divide SG society into tax-payers vs ex-taxpayer retirees? He writes that those in long-term asset-rich, cash-poor situations are “a case of bad financial management” with assets that they are ‘unable to upkeep anyway’. Therefore, sell they must those assets.

On the contrary, these seniors were actually ahead of their cohort to plonk their savings in assets that have appreciated far more than other classes. They were supporting tangibly the then govt’s call to plant their roots deep in SG. Calvin is not only disparaging and disrespectful; he is dishonest not to acknowledge that fact.

What exactly are the problems?
Such asset owners are unlikely not to have planned for their normal expenses. So, where do they appear to experience cash shortfall? Their complaints fall mainly into 3 categories, namely; healthcare, transport and property taxes.

On healthcare, even Han Fook Kwang, ST Managing Editor, with a big 6-figure salary bemoans the unexplained, unreasonable doubling of his Medishield premiums. That is only the ‘certain’ part where the figure is known. How about the ‘uncertain’ part; falling sick as a silver-haired person is more likely to – but fear of not knowing what the cost for treatment will be is a legit concern?

Transport costs have shot up. Where most would be able and planned for a private car for runabout use, the COE alone now costs 2-3 times more than when they first bought a private property. Being old, buses and MRT are not the first or available options.

Property taxes are, to be fair, not such a heavy burden. But given the cavalier attitude of the elected leaders towards the other feedback, this and the daily costs of living are all thrown in to help stir up their pot of discontent.

Healthcare and private transport costs were curved balls that this govt has thrown at them – and us who will join their ranks soon enough. They are valid concerns and complaints.

Calvin did acknowledge that ‘people with assets can still find themselves unable to make ends meet, when they encounter unexpected situations such as temporary unemployment’. What has he been smoking? He’s behaving like an older Ms Wee Shu-Min – out-of-touch and completely elitist. Increasing numbers of PMETs are now long-term umemployed. Implicit in his observation is that the govt washes its hands off the plight of those without a secured employment.

A better approach
I do not claim that our asset-rich, cash-poor seniors should rely entirely on the govt to help them. But Calvin’s approach is not in the interest of and can be fatal to nation-building. It is myopic – and dumb. We who are not yet seniors are observing how this govt treats the seniors for a clue of what is to come for us. Why pay so much taxes only to be later seen and treated as discards and burdensome, past our use-by dates? Why should we serve NS to defend a country – for those who are rich?

The solution is NOT for the govt to turn on their default mode, treating such issues with ‘what can be right about giving away a little more money – again’? Instead, it should comprehensively study the actual issues and uncertainties that our asset-rich, cash-poor seniors are facing. Then, based on the, one hopes, objective findings, fashion solutions appropriate to and in recognition of the importance of treating our seniors with the decency that we expect from others for ourselves. Trade-offs included.

It is inconceivable, nay, downright morally bankrupt, that this govt can, at will, whip out $3.6 bil to help SMEs (legal entities) with PIC (Productivity & Innovation Credit) but budget zilch to help these seniors (flesh & blood) who gave their best years and bought into this govt’s Singapore Dream of owning a roof over their heads to retire under.

If this govt is smart – and less heartless – it can be a sizeable vote winner that cost much less than $3.6 bil. Opposition parties should take note of this potential, increasing block of voters.

As for callous ex-NMP Calvin Cheng and his likes, please get out of our caring humanity face.

2cents  (admits that he is asset-rich but  –  not yet  –  cash-poor)

*  The author blogs @2econdsight.

‘No’ to permanent subsidies for asset-rich, cash-poor

I APPRECIATE that the Government is looking into offering MediShield support for asset-rich, cash-poor Singaporeans on a case-by-case basis (“MediShield support for asset-rich, cash-poor”; Thu), but it is important that subsidies are not made permanent.

In the short term, people with assets can still find themselves unable to make ends meet, when they encounter unexpected situations such as temporary unemployment.

It is unreasonable to expect them to sell illiquid assets quickly in these situations.

However, if these situations persist for longer, then it is a case of bad financial management.

If a person finds himself in a long-term low-income situation while holding on to assets, the solution is to sell these assets, which he is unable to upkeep anyway.

While it is endearing to hear of people with little income trying to hold on to their inherited property, the correct thing for them to do is to sell the property so as to make ends meet, instead of looking to the Government for help.

Other taxpayers should not be funding the sentimentality of people in long-term asset-rich, cash-poor situations.

Calvin Cheng Ern Lee

[First appeared on ST Forum, 5 Jul]


2 thoughts on “A Voice for our asset-rich, cash-poor seniors…

  1. Calvin Cheng is absolutely right. These are wealthy people, who keep their wealth in properties rather than cash. They should be the last in the queue as there are others who need help more. Shameless money-grabbing should not be tolerated.


    • Hi, Hee Kyet.
      Thx for yr view. I appreciate yr directness.

      First of all, in politics or socio-eco matters, I doubt if there are any views or positions that are ‘absolutely right’. However, I’m encouraged to see that you are not disdained of ‘in the queue ….who need help more’.

      Perhaps, if you read this comment fr TREmeritus.com in response to my article, you may, just may, I hope, understand a little better of the plight that, hopefully, will not befall you or yours;

      @Let us retire in peace, please:
      July 12, 2014 at 12:54 pm (Quote)

      You are old, retired and you have to engage a housing agent to sell your home (whatever it may be, landed or apartment or HDB) that you have been staying for so long and attached to, because you need the money to service your retirement at a reasonable comfort level.
      (There are many pioneer generation holding ordinary jobs staying in small landed properties which they acquire at an affordable price very early in their working life or they inherited it).
      Imagine the hassle of going through a property sale when you are coming nearer to your grave.
      Imagine the sadness of having to tear yourself away from your familiar surroundings and neighbours and friends.
      What if you can’t find a buyer, or get a buyer willing to pay a reasonable price.
      Property price goes up and down, so what happens if you are exiting during a downturn in property prices.
      What guarantee do you have that you can adapt and like your new home and environment.
      I know of a case where this old lady move to a new HDB flat following her son and family, pining for her old apartment as she simply could not adjust to the new HDB flat and environment and finally falling seriously ill leading to her death.
      The rich elites do not have to move out, so they are spared the anxiety, discomfort and agony of relocation at an advance stage of their lives. Do they understand how bothersome, troublesome and upsetting it can be for the old folks.
      Now the common advice you hear near to retirement is “if you do not have enough money for a comfortable retirement, sell your property and downgrade”, as if it is that simple.
      We have become a “throwaway society” like what Alvin Toffler said. No feelings, no sentiments?
      We are losing our attachment to our homes, our past, our history, our memories, thanks to our elitist caretakers who have turned us into economic digits, economic animals.
      Is this peculiar only to Singapore society where reselling of homes for retirement expenses seems to be the norm, or is this happening also in other countries.
      Retirees deserve a quiet peaceful exit from a lifetime of labour instead of unnecessary excitement, stresses and headaches and heartaches of selling their properties at that point in their lives.
      Is this the position you would like to get yourself into at the tail end of your lives.

      I do not disagree with you that there are some who are less honest. But, like the rationale of the handful who use their CPF withdrawals to fund their Batam fund, how credible is it to fashion a policy that punishes the majority who are not ‘shamelessly money-grabbing’?
      That’s why I advocated for a comprehensive study to better understand, then make policy.

      How credible is it to talk about nation building or one nation to leave our seniors behind? Or is one nation only for those currently capable of supporting themselves?

      It’d a a sad day if Calvin Cheng’s views are the majority, those of the uncaring, elitist faces.


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