2econdsight

"to rescue truth from beauty and meaning from belief"

AND THE CPF CHARADE CONTINUES…

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After months and millions of words exchanged in personal conversations, articles in pixels and print, SMSes and tweets – even a lawsuit – suddenly, in just 48 hours, Singaporeans were treated to 3 new reports that suggest the CPF mountain is about to move one nanometre.

Joint Responsibility For Old Age Income Security
Ex-NMP Laurence Lien got the ball rolling with his opinion piece in the ST, 21 Jun, ‘Joint Responsibility For Old Age Income Security.’ The buzz appears to praise and cheer his suggestion for GIC to ‘pay out bonus returns periodically’.

But netizens cannot be more than mistaken.

Lien states clearly, ‘At first, it was not my intention to write about the Central Provident Fund (CPF). But I feel compelled to do so given the persistent lack of clarity about what the real issues are.’ And clarify he did, harking back to his stint as a MOF director to assure readers that, notwithstanding ‘the Official Secrets Act does not permit me to say any more than what is publicly known’, readers should just trust him. The GIC is not broke and returns achieved are within ‘benchmarked returns’. Still, more transparency to build trust ‘needs to be addressed’, he asserts.

And, yes, the Minimum Sum goalposts have not shifted but, oh yes, he is ‘sure CPF members would welcome the Govt setting limits early and giving sufficient notice of future changes.’ Really? Has he been reading alternative media or MSM articles and comments to take a pulse of the displeasures?

Furthermore, he makes it clear that ‘The majority of CPF members should not be so focused on the Minimum Sum or on wresting control of it. They should instead look at total retirement planning in order to answer questions such as: How much money do they require for retirement? What is the potential shortfall? How much must come from personal savings? How much longer do they need to work?’

Hence, readers should not miss his key thrust, namely; ‘Income security in old age presents dilemmas and hard choices for policymakers everywhere, not just in Singapore. The sooner everybody – government and people – starts working together, with openness and cool heads, to address it today, the better off everyone will be in the future,’ he concludes.

My sincere apologies to everyone who has invariably preferred to jump on Lien’s almost passing suggestion that the Govt ‘should be able to accumulate excess returns… over the long term and pay out bonus returns periodically’.

As much as I think Laurence is not your PAP MP but speaks his mind in Parliament, to gush over what is but his tentative 5-word idea is selling ourselves short on two counts.

First, we MUST NOT lose sight of a potentially seminal event in citizens’ fight for justice in the CPF issue. I refer to TRE reader, Trust et al, who recently spotlighted Trust Laws that may give us our full legal right to ALL the full returns that have accrued from use of our trust funds by GIC over the years.

Second, Lien‘s idea, if accepted, implicitly draws a line on the past and accept ‘periodical bonus’ at the pleasure of the govt henceforth. Why should we deny ourselves of what might be rightfully ours from the past? Nope. Settle what’s owing (if, in fact, Trust Laws prove to be on our side) before we even discuss the new. Even if the courts should interpret the laws to our disadvantage, we should still fight on based on the apparent neglect of the CPF Board in allowing our hard-earned savings to be degraded instead of enabling ‘Singaporeans to have a secure retirement, through lifelong income, healthcare financing and home financing.’ The only income that is ‘lifelong’ for ALL CPFers must surely be ‘interest income’ for our funds that continues even when one is jobless or retired.

MOM’s ‘Minimum Sum Among Aspects Under Review’
Both TODAY & ST reports give prominence to the review of the Minimum Sum, currently pegged to the CPI.

In the face of complimentary remarks for Minister Tan CJ, I want to alert citizens of 2 salient observations.

One, whilst the Minimum Sum is amongst the issues under contention, it is NOT the most important. Instead, it is the CPF interest rate and our right to withdraw our money at 55 that are the 2 life-&-death issues for the majority of citizens and that impact EVERY CPFer here and now – not ten, twenty years hence.

Therefore, be not misled as daft ones. Minimum Sum review is a diversionary, administrative flare. More interest payments and the option to cash out are our legal rights. (Note: Unbeknownst to many, MOM issued this to TODAY, 22 Jul, “CLARIFICATION: The article earlier said that the Government is reviewing CPF interest rates. This is wrong. The Government is reviewing ways to better buffer the CPF against inflation and CPF interest rates is one of the ways currently used to guard against inflation.

Two, I marvel at commentators’ words of approbation for Tan CJ. Is he not the one who took a year to study the problems PMEs above >40 faced and came up with the toothless FCF? Is he also not the one who called Singaporeans ‘bigots’ who objected to the PIDCS event?

My dear fellow citizens, watch what the man does, not what he says – or how he looks, or what he looks like he can do.

That said, I do acknowledge that Brigadier-General Tan is a junior in rank amongst his cabinet colleagues and possesses less space to manoeuvre.

Private Pension Plans Option for CPF in Future
Also at the same IPS’ CPF forum, the item of interest raised by Finance Minister Tharman is his receptiveness to more investment options for CPFers. But is this a key issue? Or a diversionary one?

Citizens should again note that our 2 most important outcries for justice, re CPF interest rate and withdrawal at 55 are completely omitted in his discussions.

CONCLUSION
Isn’t it strange that in a forum dedicated to discuss ‘CPF & Retirement Adequacy’, no questions were raised or discussed on the achievement or lack in the CPF mission in its 59thyear of existence? Is not evaluating how far and how far short CPF Board and members the logical starting point for the forum, for the way forward?

Regardless, citizens must not be fooled by what has been written or said by our supposedly neutral and respected non-political leaders and ministers.

Remember their track record of deception and diversion.
Remember to watch what they do, not what they say.
Remember to stay the course, not to settle for the seemingly good, only to sacrifice the best for ourselves.

2cents

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