Unlikely allies in the CPF debate

The defamation saga between PM Lee and Roy Ngerng has sparked a nationwide debate on CPF. The issue of the CPF minimum sum and the question of where Singaporeans’ CPF money is going to was raised, bringing with it, new scrutiny on the government’s policies. The PAP Government, which is not used to being questioned, now has to face the uncomfortable prospect of answering to its citizens. People are demanding answers and calls for the CPF system to be reformed are growing increasingly vocal, from the case of a 71 year old vandalising bus stops to get his CPF message across, to the Hong Lim Park rally for CPF reform which is to take place on June 7th. Opposition MPs, NCMPs and NMPs have also raised this issue in Parliement, albeit, with less than satisfactory responses from the government. However, what is surprising is that several PAP MPs have also come out to voice their disapproval with the current CPF system and the government’s performance as a whole thus far. There are clear signs that the consensus is being questioned.

On Monday, My 26th, Inderjit Singh, MP for Ang Moh Kio GRC voiced his disapproval over the government’s economic policies that have alienated the poor and working class. He wrote in a Facebook post that Singapore’s rapid growth from third world to first world has not come without costs. He highlighted how the cost of living had outpaced the wages earned by middle- and low-income Singaporeans. This has forced them to “adjust their lifestyles downwards to live comfortably in their own country”, he said.

“What worries me most is how our young see their future in Singapore. Are they seeing a good life becoming more difficult to achieve or do they see a sense of hope and opportunity in Singapore?” he added. His post on Facebook subsequently went viral with over 3000 likes, 2000 shares and hundreds of comments from Singaporeans who agreed with his statement.

This is not the first time Inderjit Singh has spoken out against the government. In February 2013, he famously abstained from voting on the Population White Paper, risking his career in the process. He criticized the White Paper, calling for the government to restrict the growth of PRs and new citizens. Parliament ended up endorsing the White Paper 77-13, much to the disapproval of Singaporeans. Inderjit Singh was the only PAP MP to abstain. The party whip had effectively forced every single PAP MP, whether they supported the White Paper or not, to vote yes.

Another unlikely critic of the government’s CPF policy is MP for Marine Parade GRC, Tin Pei Ling. Ms Tin was the subject of harsh criticism during the last General Election with many Singaporeans calling her “unprepared and unfit to serve”. But now Tin Pei Ling appears to be the voice of reason in the ruling party plagued by systemic group think. In a Parliamentary speech on May 27th, Ms Tin urged the government to re-evaluate existing CPF policies to make the rules governing the withdrawal and use of CPF more flexible. She also called on the government to evaluate the feasibility of increasing interest rates for all CPF accounts to ensure “Singaporeans’ CPF monies will be well above the minimum sum”.

Amid the slew of political attacks and out of touch statements made by other PAP MPs in Parliament, Ms Tin’s comments were a welcome statement of support for what many Singaporeans have been advocating for years. The relentless increase in the CPF minimum sum has not been matched with adequate interest rates or wage growth. As a result, Singaporeans are paying an increasing proportion of their income to satisfy their minimum sum. What’s equally frustrating is the lack of citizen input into CPF policies. The minimum sum is arbitrarily raised without public consultation and CPF has yet to clarify how annual increases in the CPF minimum sum are computed and decided on.

The fact that PAP MPs are calling for CPF to be reformed is surely a sign that the current system is flawed. Gone are the days where the government could simply craft policies without public consultation and simply expect people to go along with it. If the government is to regain the trust of the populace, it must indicate a willingness to listen to the concerns of the people. Failure to do so would condemn the ruling party to obsolescence.

S. LIM
A student, activist, active contributor and administrator of Wake up, Singapore.

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