Nominated MP Chia Yong Yong on Tuesday took a stand against growing calls for greater flexibility in the withdrawal of Central Provident Fund (CPF) funds, questioning the idea that Singaporeans should be entitled to decide how they want to spend their money.
In her speech during the Budget debate in Parliament, she reminded the House that CPF members were not the only ones contributing to their own accounts, and that others will end up supporting those who squander their CPF savings.
Ms Chia singled out proponents of the argument that “it’s our money, it’s in our account, it’s our retirement money, I want it out, I will spend it any way I want”.
“Our CPF savings are enhanced, enforced CPF savings which are accumulated through our own deferred consumption, through co-payment by our employers and through top-ups from public funds,” she countered.
“Because I am not the only person contributing to that fund, I cannot be the only person to call the shots as to how I’m going to spend it. At the very least, I have a moral obligation to spend it wisely.”
This is because those who spend their money unwisely will end up depending on others in their twilight years. “Ultimately it means someone else is bearing (this cost), right? Another taxpayer,” she said.
There has been a rising tide of calls for more flexibility to access CPF funds, including the Workers’ Party suggestion during the Budget debate that CPF monthly payouts begin earlier at age 60.
But Ms Chia said: “I have great unease and I cannot support this recommendation that we allow such flexibility to the people. I have unease because I think we are placing a very great fiscal obligation upon our future generations living off what our forefathers have built for us.”
Commenting on this year’s Budget in general, she said it was “arguably very generous” and has been praised as “leaning to the left”. Among the highlights of the Budget were moves to give cash payouts to the poorest elderly folk.
But Ms Chia cautioned against heading too far in the leftwards direction. “I would also argue that if we lean too much to the left, we will not have much left,” Ms Chia said.
“The people who benefit also have to ensure personal responsibility in acting with integrity in their claims for the money,” she added.
“When we exercise our personal choice, there is a price to be paid… that price should not be paid by someone else.”