The Central Provident Fund (CPF) which was set up ostensibly as a safeguard for retirement has proven to be a minefield. Not only do its rules keep changing, but new schemes have been added and removed so frequently that it is beginning to resemble a Haribo pick and mix –  you won’t know which flavour you are going to get until you reach into the bag.

Ok, perhaps this is a slight exaggeration but the point remains – the average Singaporean (including me) is sufficiently confused. Does the CPF now stand for Confusion Problem Fund?

Corny abbreviations aside, how do all the schemes correlate to each other and who must top up what amount at which age? What happens if you don’t meet the Minimum Sum and the questions continue. While the CPF does have a website with a Frequently Asked Questions section, there are still many permutations to the scheme that citizens are unable to wrap their heads round. Singapore, a country that prides itself on efficiency may find itself the creator of a retirement scheme that is so unwieldy that it befuddles citizens instead of helping them.

Why can’t things be more streamlined? Why are there so many hurdles to getting a hold of your retirement monies? If it really is your retirement fund, then why are more and more rules being put in place to stop you from getting your monies whenever you want?

As people struggle to navigate their way around the CPF maze, more and more administration work will be created for the CPF. There will be more and more people writing in or calling their hotlines to ask questions. This will in turn increase the lead times for queries to be answered and the vicious cycle continues, exacerbating the problem even more. Do we want a system which we pay into but fail to understand? Where the waiting time for questions to be answered gets ever longer either because there are too many questions or because the staff themselves do not fully comprehend the various schemes?

Instead of complicating the system with more schemes and exclusions, why not just overhaul and simplify? The more uncertainty there is, the more people will speculate leading to questions on the viability of the fund itself. Is it unable to repay? Is it in financial difficulty? The government has displayed its sensitivity to any suggestion of impropriety with regards to the CPF. Isn’t that why blogger Roy Ngerng was so rapidly taken to task?

Instead of spending time and money silencing critics or creating more bureaucracy and administration work with the increasing number of queries, why not just create a more open and transparent system?

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