Can't Please all Fund members

Can't Please all Fund members

The Central Provident Fund (CPF) has been a part of Singapore's history for so long - since 1955 - it may be near impossible for many people to imagine life without it.

But what if there were no national compulsory savings scheme in place, and Singaporeans were free to do what they wished with the money they earned?

How much would people choose to spend, and how much would they force themselves to save?

While doing research for this article, I was astonished to read about the lengths poor people in the developing world go to to stash away funds for a rainy day.

In West Africa, for example, the poor pay a "susu collector" interest of 40 per cent a year to look after their deposits. In the slums of India, a deposit collector can earn interest of 30 per cent a year.

These are findings from a book entitled Portfolios Of The Poor, based on the experiences of 250 families living on less than US$2 (S$2.50) a day in South Africa, India and Bangladesh.

Its authors found that poor families use unorthodox financial instruments to create a more stable life than their erratic incomes would otherwise allow.

As it turns out, banks and national savings plans are among the privileges enjoyed only by those who live in developed countries. And as consumers of these financial services, it is natural that Singaporeans want, where possible, low fees and high returns.

Service providers, on their part, have to decide what they can realistically offer, to remain viable.

Going by recent events, it seems that some CPF members would not choose to put their money with the CPF Board if the scheme were voluntary.

These are the CPF members who chafe at rules requiring them to keep a Minimum Sum in their CPF accounts for their retirement needs, and who resent a recent hike in that sum and the raising of the age at which they can start drawing down from it.

They have unleashed a torrent of complaints online and to their Members of Parliament about CPF shifting the goal posts, and some of them showed up for yesterday's "Return Our CPF" protest at Hong Lim Park.

It is unclear what share of CPF members share their sentiments.

But there are also many CPF members who have not joined the chorus of condemnation.

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