Giam: Govt transferring risks to S'poreans

Giam: Govt transferring risks to S'poreans
Non-Constituency MP (NCMP) Gerald Giam.

SINGAPORE - Non-constituency MP Gerald Giam yesterday criticised the Government for "transferring" risks to Singaporeans through various policies, saying it could lead to feelings of uncertainty.

Citing the CPF and MediShield schemes and "marketised" public services, he said the Government had been "very good at managing its own risks but less so the risks faced by citizens".

He noted, for example, that while the CPF minimum sum amount is pegged to inflation, the CPF Life annuity payouts are not.

When the Government restructured public services such as transport and health care, it had also exposed Singaporeans to service providers that could pass on business risks to customers, he said.

Mr Giam, who is from the Workers' Party, said this "regressive transfer of risk from Government to citizens" in the last 10 years could explain why Singaporeans feel uncertain about life, and are therefore less willing to start businesses or volunteer their time to serve others.

He noted, however, that the Government is starting to bear a larger share of risks, by delinking BTO flat prices from resale market valuations, for example.

Even so, worries about the cost of living, retirement adequacy, health-care affordability and job security still plague Singaporeans, and the Government should take heed, Mr Giam added.

He also said the means-testing criteria for public assistance was too stringent. While it was meant to discourage reliance on handouts, making the needy "jump through hoops" for financial aid would not help them "pull themselves up by their bootstraps".

He urged the Government to turn its focus on "incentivising hard work" to the major industries, through guarding against "rent-seeking behaviour" by trying to make more money without producing more for customers. The casino, real estate and construction sectors were identified by the Economist magazine as being prone to this, he said.

He also suggested the Government look at increasing the net investment returns contributions or taxes on profits derived from economically non-productive activities, when seeking new revenue streams to pay for increased social spending.

"These should be done before considering raises to the GST or personal income taxes for middle- income earners," he said.

This article was first published on May 28, 2014.
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