MPs give thumbs up to pioneer package

SINGAPORE - It was nods of approval all round for the Pioneer Generation Package yesterday, as Members of Parliament (MPs) gave the highlight of this year's Budget their overwhelming support.

Speaking on the first day of the Budget debate, some 25 MPs lauded the $8 billion bundle of health-care subsidies and top-ups which honour some 450,000 of Singapore's pioneers, noting that it recognises them and addresses their needs.

Pioneers are defined as Singaporeans aged 65 and above this year, and who became citizens before 1987 if they were not born here.

The Workers' Party also expressed support for this year's Budget, said party chairman Sylvia Lim.

Calling it a "refreshing departure from public conversations of the past", the Aljunied GRC MP said: "Instead of just urging respect for our elders as a virtue, some public monies are being set aside to support this special group.

"Instead of attributing Singapore's progress mainly to visionary leaders, we are recognising the contributions of everyone else on an equal footing, from followers to mothers and labourers."

While supporting the move, several MPs voiced concerns about the future.

Medical costs, they said, continue to rise and hospitals are still facing a bed crunch.

Nee Soon GRC MP Lim Wee Kiak urged the Government to impose measures to freeze increments in medical fees for a period of time, or to control such fee hikes.

He also proposed that the Government give the pioneers perks, such as free entry to public swimming pools and gyms, to keep them active and healthy.

West Coast GRC MP Foo Mee Har added that many seniors have pointed out that subsidies will "be meaningful only if the escalating medical costs are moderated".

She said: "Otherwise, it will be a case of in one pocket, and out the other."

Several other suggestions were thrown up, including the issuing of official Pioneer Generation cards to identify the group so that the community or private sector can offer members special discounts or privileges.

limyihan@sph.com.sg

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