Servicemen hail free insurance

A new Government move to provide free insurance coverage for both full-time and operationally ready national servicemen has given Singaporean sons a reason for cheer.

From July 1, the Ministry of Defence (Mindef) and the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) will provide life and group term insurance coverage of up to $150,000 each during the servicemen's full-time national service or reservist duties.

The recommendation by the Committee to Strengthen National Service, made in recognition of the contributions of current and former men and women in uniform, drew positive reactions from those The Straits Times surveyed.

Said Mr Kane Chua, an operationally ready national serviceman (NSman): "This is good news. It will definitely save me money and administrative trouble."

The 21-year-old who is waiting to enrol in university thought the move was "especially timely" for him as it will alleviate his financial burden when his school term starts.

Since 2009, the Government had increased the monthly allowance of NSmen by $20 to help pay for basic insurance coverage. The new joint scheme, when it kicks in, ensures they will not even have to draw down from this increment.

There are no plans to remove the additional $20 from servicemen's monthly pay.

Full-time national serviceman (NSF) Lemuel Poh, 21, said: "The insurance will give me peace of mind during my combat duties as I know that I'm protected by default. Compensation claims are more reactive and in some cases not guaranteed."

Mr Poh expects to deposit his resulting savings under the new POSB Save-As-You-Earn scheme, where NSFs can enjoy an interest rate of 2 per cent per annum.

The joint Mindef-MHA group insurance will also be extended to regulars in Mindef, the Singapore Armed Forces, and the Home Team (Uniformed Officers).

Experts were surprised at the generosity of the move as the total bill "will be substantial".

Mr Ho Shu Huang, associate research fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies at Nanyang Technological University, said: "It shows an interest in refining how they look after the welfare of their servicemen, even if the cost may be high."

The lecturer in military studies also wondered if it would get the rest of the country to start thinking about insurance protection.

"It's been reported that Singaporeans are under-insured so this could be a welcome secondary benefit for the country as a whole."

While agreeing that the provision of insurance was a generous move, Sembawang GRC MP Vikram Nair, chairman of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Defence and Foreign Affairs, cautioned against asking for more too fast too soon. "This is a very generous and positive step, but welfare extensions continue to be subject to budgetary constraints," he said.

This article was first published on June 27, 2016.
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