Top issues: Old-age support, living costs, health care

Top issues: Old-age support, living costs, health care

Singaporeans' wishes, going by the pre-Budget feedback exercise, include:

- Government support in old age, particularly for those who have not fully paid up housing loans.

- Greater withdrawal flexibility from the Central Provident Fund (CPF) scheme upon retirement.

- Not cutting the employer CPF contribution rate for those aged 50 and above, to encourage more seniors to work while helping them save more for their retirement.

Having enough to retire, health care and cost of living pressures have emerged as the top concerns for Singaporeans, going by the Government's pre-Budget 2015 feedback exercise.

The three issues accounted for about one-third of all feedback received - 2,900 responses in all.

The Budget will be delivered by Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam at 3.30pm on Monday. Parliament will start sitting at 2.30pm that day.

The feedback exercise, run by the Government's citizen engagement arm Reach and the Ministry of Finance, sought views on areas that Budget 2015 should address.

Many called for more government support in old age, as concerns mount over having enough funds upon retiring to cope with rising living costs, particularly if housing loans are not all paid up.

Some want greater withdrawal flexibility from the Central Provident Fund (CPF) scheme upon retirement, while others said early CPF withdrawals should be allowed on a case-by-case basis to cater for unexpected needs.

Some also suggested not cutting the employer CPF contribution rate for those aged 50 and above, to encourage more seniors to work while helping them save more for their retirement.

Dr Amy Khor, Senior Minister of State for Health and Manpower and Reach chairman, said the recent recommendations from the CPF advisory panel will help address some of these concerns.

"We look forward to a second set of recommendations... due later this year, and in totality, we hope that Singaporeans will have greater peace of mind about having enough for their old age."

Health-care issues were also prominent in the feedback. Some fear medical and hospitalisation costs becoming more unmanageable, especially for patients with chronic and life- threatening conditions. Others felt the deductible for MediShield Life and private health insurance should be lowered.

But Dr Khor said that under MediShield Life, the compulsory basic health insurance scheme set to replace MediShield, all Singaporeans will be "covered for life with better benefits, and premiums will be made affordable with premium subsidies".

On the cost of living, many sought more financial aid to subsidise "everyday goods and services". Some said daily necessities should be made more affordable, especially for the jobless, the lower income and the elderly.

Many also felt their salaries had not kept pace with inflation.

Parents fretted about rising education costs, and sought subsidised childcare fees for middle-income families and free childcare for low-income ones.

Dr Khor said the Government is looking at the rising cost of living through various measures.

"But a key way to help Singaporeans cope with the cost of living must be to enable and equip them with the relevant skills, so that they can have better jobs and better pay," she said.

A live webcast of the Budget speech will be available on www.singaporebudget.gov.sg and the Singapore Budget mobile app, available for download on the Apple and Android platforms.

tsjwoo@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on Feb 17, 2015.
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