Suspicions in relation to the workings, mechanics and intentions of the Central Provident Fund (CPF) are not new. There have long been questions raised by members of the opposition parties as well as bloggers. Without going into a long story on how each critic was dealt with given that this is the subject of a whole other article, it would be safe to say that the public have the impression that the CPF is a "hot potato" issue.
Ask too many questions at your own peril. The most high profile recent critic of the CPF was Roy Ngerng (Ngerng). His rewards for relentlessly asking questions on the CPF comprised of a defamation suit from Lee Hsien Loong, the Prime Minister of Singapore (PM Lee) and the payment of hefty damages to PM Lee. Ngerng now lives outside Singapore having said that he was unable to get a job in the city state as a result of his troubles with the government.
While the harsh treatment of critics of the CPF may silence the critics out of fear, it does not make the lingering questions go away. Further, it begs the question whether warranted or not - what are they hiding? Why is it such a "sensitive" issue?
On paper, it sounds like a wonderful scheme, set up as a safety net for retirees. However, the complicated structure of it plus the many changes that have been made over the years have made the scheme arguably unwieldy and inaccessible. I believe that most people on the street are unable to tell you what the latest changes are or the extent of their rights under the CPF. Is it because the system has become unnecessarily complicated? Anything that involves large sums of money and the government has to be dealt with in an open, accessible and transparent manner. To do otherwise, will understandably invite suspicion. After all, why is the government making it so difficult for lay folk to understand how to get what should be their retirement monies?
The latest change in the already confusing scheme is that automatic payment of CPF monies will only be made to a person born from 1954 after that person turns 70. Prior to this change, the age where automatic payment kicks in was 65. While individuals affected by this amendment can still get payments at age 65 if they know how to go about making the application to do so, the onus falls on these individuals to activate that payment. The obvious question to this change is : WHY? Why are we increasing the age requirement? This is not something that has been addressed and it should be. It is after all our monies. Why shouldn't we be entitled to know why?
This change appears arbitrary and unduly harsh. It assumes that all senior citizens would be up to date on the CPF's changes. What if that senior citizen is not suitably clued in and does not become aware that he or she needs to activate such payments if he or she wants to be paid at 65?
If the CPF is my money, why is the onus on me to have to activate my payments if I want it at the age you had originally said I would get my monies? If the motivation behind this change is to "simplify the process", wouldn't it make more sense for those who want to defer their payout from 65 to 70 to opt in rather than putting the responsibility on those who want status quo to activate their payments? It just doesn't add up.
At best, it appears as a poorly thought out scheme that may cause the less savvy senior citizens to fall through the cracks. At worst, it will encourage conspiracy theories to abound. If the government wants avoid "fake" news, it can simply be more transparent.