Is the Merdeka Generation package a vote buying bag of benefits or a tribute?

by Khush Chopra

We are told the purpose or objective of the MGP is tributary in nature to recognise the contributions of that cohort to the economic and national development of Singapore “to honour them for what they have done for Singapore.

As set out in Channel NewsAsia (CNA) online here:

“First announced during Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s National Day Rally last year, the package is meant to express appreciation for the Merdeka Generation and help them with healthcare costs as well as to keep active and healthy”.

During the recent Budget debate in Parliament, we were again reminded that “the package is not meant to plug a needs gap”, and was meant to be a recognition for contributions: a tribute.

Don’t look at it as a bag of welfare benefits but rather see it as a one-off tribute.

However the reality seems to be that it is social expenditure that is a vote buying bag of benefits.

According to The Straits Times on Friday (1 March):

”The Merdeka Generation Package, like that for the Pioneer Generation, is custom-made to better meet the needs of Singaporeans in their silver years, said Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat…..”

Mr Heng noted the Merdeka package was on top of existing schemes, and pointed out that the Ministry of Health expects to spend $6.1 billion this year alone – to subsidise patient bills through existing permanent schemes that all citizens enjoy. This does not include spending to enhance healthcare facilities, and to research more effective treatments.”

They can’t have it both ways. Please make up your mind and decide where you stand. Vote buying bag of benefits or tribute?

This distinction is important because such one-off packages are discriminatory towards non- beneficiary ordinary citizens denying citizens of their constitutional right to equality of treatment under the law. On what basis can this discrimination in public expenditure be justified? Why should the other non – beneficiary ordinary citizens accept this unfairness? See my earlier post where I first brought up this point.

This post was first published at Khush Chopra’s Facebook page and reproduced with permission.