A bill to set up a fund for the Pioneer Generation Package was met with support in Parliament yesterday - but also with some questions, with one Nominated Member of Parliament even moving an amendment to it.
The Pioneer Generation Fund will cover the cost of the package, estimated at slightly over $9 billion, said Senior Minister of State for Finance Josephine Teo during the Bill's second reading.
This will ensure the package can be paid for beyond the current term of government, and regardless of the state of the economy.
Mr David Ong (Jurong GRC), one of three MPs to speak on the Bill yesterday, described it as among the Government's "boldest and most generous initiatives" to look after the elderly.
But he added that good execution is as vital as good intentions.
One recurring concern is poor communication of the package's many benefits to the elderly.
Some seniors already have a negative view of the package after bad experiences with front-line staff ill-equipped to handle their queries, said Dr Fatimah Lateef (Marine Parade GRC).
She added that it is crucial to train front-line staff: "These are the people who will be our ambassadors for the Pioneer Generation Package. "The interaction the pioneers have with them will colour their perceptions of the package."
Mr Ong also stressed the need to ensure the fund is well-governed.
In reply, Mrs Teo said it would be subject to the same stringent structure as for similar funds.
The fund will be audited and its financial statements presented to Parliament every year.
Addressing Mr Ong's worry of indiscriminate fees from health- care providers, Mrs Teo assured him the Health Ministry will closely monitor claims submitted by clinics and will not hesitate to call them out on exceptional claims.
Whether the Bill would benefit all pioneers was a concern of NMP Chia Yong Yong, who tried moving an amendment to a clause in the Bill, leading to some confusion before it was passed.
Ms Chia took issue with the phrase "them who are elderly and are or may be in need of financial relief" - which she said suggested pioneers could be subjected to means-testing - and asked to replace part of it with "pioneers".
This led to an exchange between her and Mrs Teo, who repeatedly stressed that the Government has no intentions to introduce means-testing for pioneers.
Ms Chia still moved the amendment, but assent was not granted by the House, and the Bill was passed without changes.
This article was first published on Nov 04, 2014.
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