By Tan Cheng Bock
The current heated discussion on CPF boils down to a question of a lack of public trust.
Most Singaporeans have high expectations of realising some cash after their retirement. Changes made to the CPF and the constant reminder that they may not have enough disposable income when they grow old, created a sense of insecurity. This is backed by the fact that only half of active CPF account holders have enough to meet the minimum sum requirement. To add to the anxiety, the minimum sum was increased recently resulting in less disposable money for their retirement.
Human nature is such. Many live on hope and promises. How did we come to this scenario? CPF was intended to give us comfort in old age but this do not seem to be so now.
Questions were asked why CPF investment was not giving us better returns. As answers were not so forth coming, they inferred that probably there was not enough CPF fund to give back and thus the need to retain more in the minimum sum. This may not be the case but nevertheless confidence in the system has been dented.
Younger Singaporeans, better educated, and with a more enquiring mind zoomed in on how the CPF money was invested. They raised some pertinent questions like interest rates and want to know where, how and quantum of return from investments but they got same standard answers ( e.g. CPF are invested in Singapore government bonds). This did not satisfy their young minds. They want to know whether GIC and Temasek holdings are also managing the funds. But apparently these questions were not well clarified. This created a suspicion of the government not being transparent and that the government was not revealing the true status of our money in the CPF.
As the answers were not forth coming, more pressure was exerted through the new media and some got carried away too far with allegation of wrong doings by the authorities. So the big stick was used.
The CPF issue is but one of many such encounters that the government will have to face. It is very challenging and difficult .
There will be more such standoffs. But for now, how is the government going to manage this?
Will the tough action taken, strengthen the resolve of the young or a more engaging approach be a better way for such encounters in future?
How hard the big stick is used will be carefully watched both by Singaporeans and Singapore watchers abroad.
This post was first posted as a facebook status on Tan Cheng Bock's facebook account.