Uniquely Singapore

Leong Sze Hian

In the Channel NewsAsia report, “MediShield premiums to go up from December 1”, and the Ministry of Health’s press release on 27 April, the government is increasing MediShield premiums from 1 December.

The hike will be by as much as $480 a year for older Singaporeans.

Whilst the deductible stays the same for those under age 80, at $1,500 for Class B2 and $1,000 for Class C, it will be raised to S$3,000 for Class B2 and S$2,000 for Class C for those aged 80 to 85. This is an increase of 100 per cent for those 80 to 85 years old.

Why is the government raising the Medishield premiums by $480 and the deductible for these older and elderly Singaporeans?

As it is likely that those Singaporeans in this age group may have more frequent and larger medical bills, why are we increasing their financial burden?

At that advanced age, it may also be more likely that their retirement financial resources may have diminished, and thus the financial strain may generally be more acute for these octogenarians.

What’s the point of topping-up the Medisave account of those age 81 and above by an extra $100 to $550, which was only announced a week before the revelation that the MediShield deductible will be increased by up to $1,500 and premiums by up to $480 a year? The increase of $1,500 is 173 per cent more than their one-time Medisave top-up!

Those who are aged 80 may be left in a bind, because they don’t qualify for the higher Medisave top-up, but are affected by the higher deductible (deductible is based on policy year as of age next birthday), and they are also not eligible for the raised annual Medisave withdrawal limit from $800 to $1,150.

Perhaps the government should be reminded that Healthcare inflation continues to be one of the main concerns for Singaporeans and that general inflation in Singapore hit a 27-year-high of 7.5 per cent just last month, in April.

Also, the government revealed in February a budget surplus of $6.45 billion. So, why add a further burden to our elderly Singaporeans?

Who will be footing the bill for the IRs?

I also refer to media reports about the $5.25 billion credit facility for the Marina Bay Sands Integrated Resort. (“$5.25b credit facility for Marina Bay Sands“, Straits Times, Feb 29)

In this connection, the funding of the other IR is a record for Genting and one of the largest syndicated credit deals in Singapore’s banking history (“Genting secures $4.2b loans for S’pore casino“, Straits Times Feb 11).

Against widespread disapproval of having two casinos in Singapore, and their possible social ills, one of the most compelling reasons cited for allowing them was that it would bring in a huge amount of foreign investments.

The Straits Times report said:

DBS Bank, Oversea-Chinese Banking Corp, HSBC, Royal Bank of Scotland, and Sumitomo Mitsui Banking are the lead arrangers, underwriters and bookrunners for the loans, Genting said.

How much of the total of $9.2 billion financing for the two Integrated Resorts (IRs), syndicated by financial institutions in Singapore, will end up as money from Singaporeans, Singapore companies, Singapore financial institutions, and government-linked companies (GLCs)?

Was this issue ever discussed or made known to the public, during the “casino” debate, on the merits of the IRs?

Could this money have been put to better use in alternative strategies for Singapore’s economic development?

Aren’t the risks much higher, when so much of the investment funding comes from Singapore, which itself is contrary to what we were told – that investments for the two IRs would be from foreign investors?

In this connection, in the case of the recent international casinos’ investments in Macau, how much of the funding was syndicated by banks in Macau or China?

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