GERALD GIAM: I PREFER THE LEASE BUYBACK SCHEME TO APPLY TO ALL TYPES OF FLATS

I attended the National Day Rally on 17 August 2014 at ITE. After the speech, reporters from various media outlets asked for my views on the Prime Minister’s CPF announcements. These are some of my brief thoughts. My parliamentary colleague Yee Jenn Jong (NCMP) responded to the media’s questions about education.

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1. While I understand the PM’s explanation that sufficient CPF balances are needed for people to have a decent monthly pay out after retirement, many low-income (or no-income) Singaporeans simply cannot save up enough to meet the Minimum Sum of $155,000 or $161,000, even with the property pledge included. They are caught in a Catch-22 situation. We need to do more to help those who cannot meet the Minimum Sum. I am glad to hear about the new Silver Support scheme. It is an acknowledgement that some poor elderly Singaporeans need more Government support, and that self-reliance or family-reliance has its limits.

2. I would like the Government to focus more on ways to improve retirement income without asking the elderly to sell their homes and downgrade. It is good that the Lease Buyback Scheme (LBS) has been extended to 4-room flats. The LBS has not seen a very good take up rate so far, in large part because it was restricted to only 3-room or smaller flats. But as I had stated in my 2012 Budget debate speech, I would prefer for LBS to be extended to all flat sizes. This will help more elderly folks monetise their flats without having to sell and move out of their flats, which many of them attach a lot of sentimental value to. This is what I said in 2012:
“…most elderly folks prefer to remain in their current homes, rather than get displaced to unfamiliar surroundings in their old age.

To give the elderly more choice, the Lease Buyback Scheme should be extended to owners of 4-room or larger flats, just like the Silver Housing Bonus. Currently only owners of 3-room or smaller flats are eligible. This could be a reason for the low take up rate.

An enhanced Lease Buyback Scheme will enable more of our elderly to age in place, and to live their golden years in familiar surroundings, without having to worry too much about finances.”

3. It is good to give CPF members more flexibility to withdraw part of their CPF upon retirement. My colleague Png Eng Huat (MP for Hougang) had spoken on this in Parliament in May this year. Different people have different needs. Some might have more pressing needs for their CPF, like healthcare expenses, immediately after retirement. The Government should not seek to dictate every aspect of how retirees spend their own CPF monies.

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