Joint responsibility for old age income security

Joint responsibility for old age income security

At first, it was not my intention to write about the Central Provident Fund (CPF). But I feel compelled to do so given the persistent lack of clarity about what the real issues are.

Some citizens have asked, is the money still there? Why does the Government need to hang on to our money after age 55? Is it because the money is lost?

As a previous director at the Ministry of Finance overseeing government investments I can only say that no one should worry about that. Unfortunately, the Official Secrets Act does not permit me to say any more than what is publicly known.

The investments of GIC are large and diversified across asset classes and geographical markets. Its 20-year returns - at 6.5 per cent in US dollars and 5 per cent per annum in Singapore dollars - are not substantially different from benchmark returns.

Citizens may not be similarly reassured because the Government has chosen not to release detailed numbers of the Government's balance sheet, including the actual size of GIC's assets under management.

Ironically, in the Singapore Government's case, the reticence is borne out of a desire to be conservative - to reduce the pressure to be profligate - and not a need to hide losses.

However, we have reached a stage of our political maturation process in which the lack of transparency, and perceived lack of public accountability, needs to be addressed. Transparency breeds trust.

There has been much debate over the changing Minimum Sum amount and the perception of constantly shifting goalposts.

But the policy intent has all along been very clear. Set at $80,000 in 2003, the idea has been to raise the amount gradually until it reaches $120,000 (in 2003 dollars) in 2015, with amounts adjusted yearly for inflation. There has been no change in this policy.

Once the Minimum Sum is set for a particular cohort, it does not change.

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