NMP opposes greater flexibility in withdrawal of CPF savings

Singaporeans have a "moral obligation" to spend their Central Provident Fund (CPF) savings wisely, so they do not end up being a burden to others in their twilight years, Nominated MP Chia Yong Yong said yesterday.

Questioning the popular idea that Singaporeans should be entitled to decide how they want to spend their retirement money, Ms Chia went against the grain in taking a firm stand against calls for greater flexibility in the withdrawal of CPF savings.

In a spirited speech during the Budget debate in Parliament, she reminded the House that CPF members were not the only ones contributing to their own accounts - contrary to those who argue that "it is our money, it is in our account, it is our retirement money, I want it out, I will spend it any way I want".

Instead, Ms Chia noted, "our CPF savings are enhanced, enforced CPF savings which are accumulated through our own deferred consumption, through co-payment by our employers and through top-ups from public funds".

"Because I am not the only person contributing to that fund, I cannot be the only person to call the shots as to how I am going to spend it. At the very least, I have a moral obligation to spend it wisely."

Those who squander their money will eventually have to depend on someone else to support them, Ms Chia warned.

"Ultimately, it means someone else is bearing (this cost), right? Another taxpayer."

There has been a rising tide of calls for more flexibility to access CPF savings, including the Workers' Party suggestion during yesterday's Budget debate that CPF monthly payouts begin earlier, at age 60.

But Ms Chia voiced a "great unease" at this recommendation.

"I have unease because I think we are placing a very great fiscal obligation upon our future generations living off what our forefathers have built for us."

In the same vein, she said that while this year's Budget in general was "arguably very generous" and has been praised for "leaning to the left" by spending more funds to strengthen social safety nets, there should be some limits.

"I would argue that if we lean too much to the left, we will not have much left," Ms Chia quipped to applause from some in the House.

Separately, Ms Jessica Tan (East Coast GRC) warned of "the risk of a mindset of dependency and expectation for continued increased spending", if the benefits for Singaporeans in this year's Budget were taken for granted.

While she believed that the Government's higher spending on social support measures to mitigate the effects of growing income disparity and cost of living would help bring about a more cohesive society, she said Singapore "must stay vigilant to managing the delicate balance" of fiscal prudence and judicious spending.

Ms Tan said the culture here of a strong work ethic and personal effort and responsibility must be preserved.

"If we are to succeed in building a stronger Singapore, we must preserve this Singapore ethic," she said.

This article was first published on March 4, 2015.
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