Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) chief Chee Soon Juan has released another critique of the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP)’s current policies — this time in Cantonese.
Citing Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s election promise in 2015, in which Mr Lee said that elderly Singaporeans “deserve peace of mind in their golden years” and “to live out their years with dignity”, Dr Chee, in a video on his official Facebook page yesterday (30 Jul), pointed out how after the last election until today, senior citizens “are having difficulty in making ends meet”.
This can be seen in the number of seniors working as cleaners, as Dr Chee had shown in his video, which he had attributed partially to the government’s policy of not allowing “retirees to take back their CPF savings at 55 years old”.
While the CPF Board retains Members’ money at 55 for the purpose of the CPF LIFE annuity scheme, Members will only be able to obtain monthly payouts after the “payout eligibility age” at 65 from CPF Life, and only after making an application to the CPF Board, as illustrated by a TOC reader earlier this year.
Drawing attention to the tragic plight of elderly Singaporeans who “live in poverty” as a result of not being able to withdraw their CPF savings at 55, Dr Chee observed that some of them “have to sleep on the streets and McDonalds because they are homeless”, and that many of them have also contemplated resorting to suicide as they could “find no way out” of their bleak financial situation.
The number of suicides among elderly Singaporeans reached “a record high” since 1991 in 2017, with 129 senior citizens aged 60 and above having taken their lives, as reported by the Samaritans of Singapore (SOS) a year ago.
Younger generations are not spared from the negative effects of the PAP’s policies, according to Dr Chee, as many “are turning to driving taxis and Grab cars” due to retrenchments, which many have attributed to the PAP’s open-door “foreign talent” policy.
Dr Chee also reiterated the multiple rising costs of basic necessities such as the 30 per cent increase of the water tax, as well as increasing town council fees and public education fees as an example of how the PAP will “make you pay and pay”.
“Before elections, it [PAP] will lower the price of this and that, like giving you kopi for 50 cents and get your vote. But after the elections, it will increase prices again and more, then take back the money it “gave” you before,” he charged.
“Before elections, it will give you a chicken wing. After elections, it takes back a whole chicken,” added Dr Chee.
CPF is your money, not the government’s: SDP chief Chee Soon Juan
Previously in May this year, Dr Chee had also raised similar points in another video regarding the downsides of the PAP’s policies, especially on the lives of elderly Singaporeans.
“When we were young, we worked hard, helped to build up our nation. But when we’re old, the government says, ‘You die your business’ … CPF is your money, not the government’s. The government has a responsibility to the elderly,” stressed Dr Chee.
“Not only does the government not look after the elderly, but it keeps raising prices – water, service and conservancy charges, gas, university, kindergarten, polytechnics, carpark, Internet, Electronic Road Pricing, sugar, diesel, carbon emissions, and Goods and Services Tax,” he said.
Dr Chee observed how “the elderly have to clean tables, wash toilets, [and] be sweepers” because they do not have enough to get by every month, and who may also not be able to rely on their children for financial support.
“Some elderly [people] literally work until they die,” he said, citing a news report on an 80-year-old elderly lady who worked day and night in a kopitiam for “seven days a week with two days off a month”, and who eventually passed away after she “went to toilet and sat down” at work one day.
The elderly in Singapore who do not have the capacity to work to sustain themselves, or to alternatively obtain financial help from others, said Dr Chee, are forced to resort to ending their lives, as 129 elderly suicides were recorded in 2017, dubbed “an all-time high” since 1991.
In reference to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s election campaign speech in 2015, Dr Chee said: “When we say money is tight for us, he tells us to tighten our belts. Buy cheaper milk powder, eat S$3 economic rice. But while he asks us to eat and live cheaply, he increases his and the ministers’ salaries.”
Dr Chee highlighted that Mr Lee, in stark contrast to ordinary Singaporeans, earns a monthly salary of S$200,000 as Prime Minister, while other ministers earn around S$150,000 per month.
He added: “When they travel, they fly first class, stay in 5-star hotels, and eat not S$3 meals but S$300 meals”.
Despite the high salaries, said Dr Chee, Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong was quoted as saying that Singapore’s ministers are “not paid enough”, while Senior Minister of State for Law and Health Edwin Tong suggested that a salary of S$50,000 per month is not enough as he has children, parents, and in-laws to look after.
“What about us? We don’t even earn S$5k a month!” exclaimed Dr Chee.