The Merdeka Generation Package (MGP) offered by the Government in Budget 2019 is merely a rebranding of the Pioneer Generation Package (PGP) that was launched five years ago, according to international educator and member of the People’s Voice Party Mohamed Nassir Ismail.
“What is Merdeka [Generation Package]? Actually, it is from Pioneer [Generation Package],” said Mr Nassir, adding: “It’s just a ‘copy and paste’ [situation] again.”
“They said, “Okay, you can earn this much money, Government will give you S$300 per year … Is this enough for them? I don’t think that is enough for them.
“In economic terms – economies of scale – we understand that it’s not enough” for an entire year, “especially when you are a retiree and you still have certain responsibilities to your family. You have to pay your bills. Maybe you still owe the Housing and Development Board,” said Mr Nassir.
Uncertainty in employment duration coupled with increasing CPF minimum withdrawal age a troubling prospect for Singaporean retirees
When asked if he thinks the budget could assist Singaporean workers, Mr Ismail asks, after looking at the terms and conditions: “How long can they sustain [their employment]? When the economy is good, they can sustain it … But once they reach 40 years old or 45 years old, then they will be placed on standby for retrenchment.”
“This is a concept that the Government has been doing for the last few years. So what I can see is that the non-sustainability of the position of workers in Singapore is very delicate.”
Retirees, opined Mr Nassir, face a “worse” predicament.
“Retirees – when they reach 55 – they have to wait now up to 65 … A few months ago, we understand that the Government want to raise the age up to 70.
“Did you know that within this range of ages, they have to wait for their CPF … Let’s say if they have passed on [before the minimum withdrawal age], let’s say, at the age of 64 years old … The interest from that year will be gone. What happens to their CPF?”
Consequently, Mr Nassir suggested that the Government, at the end, will benefit from the deceased retirees’ CPF savings.
“I think this is very unfair for the retirees.”
WATCH: Mohd’s Nassir Ismail’s thoughts on Budget 2019
Govt heavy spending on defence disproportionate to actual geopolitical situation; Singaporeans are a “peace-loving people”
The Government’s allocation on defence and security was one of the first things that caught Mr Nassir’s attention at first glance.
“We as Singaporeans, we would like to fight for our country. We would like to defend our country.
“But now we see that priority [of the Government in] the Budget is totally on the defence [area].
“We Singaporeans are peace-loving people … We are taught to be very friendly, to be very good to our neighbours.
“So when I see that Budget, I will see the image. Image in terms of what? Are we amongst leaders who are warmongers, who like to create very arrogant teams by saying that “Oh, the first priority is safety and security.”
“How will our neighbours see us? What type of citizens or people [will they think reside] in this little island?
Drawing from a personal anecdote of his own, Mr Nassir also highlighted the sentiments of the elderly in Singapore regarding the massive government spending on defence and security.
“A few days ago, one old man – Chinese guy – came and told me, “Bang ah, can you highlight something for me?” … “You know what he said? He said, ‘How come the Government likes to spend billions of dollars on defence? What about us old people?”
Budget 2019 ought to reflect “the sensitivities of the ordinary citizen”
“As an ordinary citizen,” Mr Nassir said, he would instead prefer to see a Budget 2019 that reflects “the sensitivities of the ordinary citizen,” which encompass Singaporeans’ daily living expenses and monthly expenses.
“All in, if you add them up, will amount to around S$1000 or maybe more,” said Mr Nassir.
“It depends on the HDB [unit] that they are living in.”
“What I want to see is, at least, for the Government to feel … the suffering of our citizens, especially the retirees,” Mr Nassir lamented.
Asking retirees to work “a few more years to cover yourself, to maybe build up your CPF again, and to cover your daily and monthly expenses”, he added, is unfair to the retirees.
“That is not retirement. That is … semi-retirement,” added Mr Nassir.
“You have to work until your eyes close, until you are gone.”