Defend principle of self-reliance

All parliamentarians should seek to uphold the underlying ethos of self-reliance, self-awareness and self-control that continues to define Singapore's success ("Asset-rich, cash-poor retirees speak up"; last Saturday). Exceptions to the norm, where applicable, can and should be made.

However, it does not make sense for taxpayers to mollycoddle retirees with the means of taking care of their own material needs, especially those who own multiple properties and are complaining about the squeeze of progressive property taxes on their rental income ("Higher property tax will put squeeze on retirees" by Mr Ang Miah Boon; Nov 27) .

These landlords - who are seeking preferential tax treatment just because they are senior citizens who have contributed to Singapore's success - have many options to fund their retirement needs, including cashing in on their assets and, if need be, investing the fresh funds in financial instruments such as annuities.

The attractive returns on their real estate investments are partly due to Singapore's economic achievements over the last 50 years.

They should be grateful and spare a thought for those who are more deserving of public assistance.

According to MPs Sylvia Lim and Inderjit Singh, some retirees have formed an emotional bond with their homes and would like to live out their final years there.

I share their observation - as long as these seniors can afford to do so.

Singapore cannot afford to pander to every asset-rich, cash-poor retiree who harbours such sentiments, as our society ages.

It will also contradict our efforts at building HDB studio apartments and retirement villages to encourage prudence among senior citizens.

The same can be said of Mr Singh's argument that members of the asset-rich, cash-poor class deserve handouts because they did not enjoy public housing subsidies in the past.

It is akin to suggesting that all private property dwellers who have not enjoyed any housing grant from the Government, including myself, should have their Central Provident Fund savings topped up.

As Western Europe has shown, populist policies to address the age-old problems of welfarism have the nasty habit of backfiring on future generations.

Let us be very clear that this discussion is not about the rich versus the poor, or between private property dwellers and heartlanders.

It is about defending a very sensible principle of robust self-reliance against the emerging "cancer" of self-entitlement and "half-baked" egalitarianism across all strata of our society.

Toh Cheng Seong

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