When confronted with the issue of CPF, PAP politicians are almost always quick to tell you that “CPF is your money”. This statement isn’t entirely true and it creates for very bitter feelings when told the funds can only be used for highly restrictive purposes.
Nominated MP Chia Yong Yong echoed my sentiments yesterday.
“…we have heard proponents who say that the CPF monies is theirs. ‘It’s our money, it’s in our account, it’s our retirement money. I want it out, I will spend it anyway we want.” Fine. Is it our money? Our CPF savings are enhanced and forced CPF savings which are accumulated through our own deferred consumption, through co-payment by our employers and through top-ups from public funds. Is it really my private money? Do I have the right to spend it the way I would spend my own salary? I’m not entirely sure…” said Chia.
What started off with 20% of your salary, is put in Trust with the Board. The employer contributes a further 17% (which is debatable because as an employer, I would have factored this 17% as your salary anyway) and compounded interest paid by the Board (which pays higher interest rates than banks) burgeons your funds.
It is the cumulative effect of all of these factors that make the CPF system possible.
And then she said something that no politician on either side of the fence dare say, “I know at the end of the day, that because I’m not the only person contributing to the 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.”
Because of the nature of partisan politics, such a statement weighs uneasily on the electorate. No politician in their right mind would want to risk vote loss with a statement that almost sounds like rebuke.
“Why do I say that? Because if I’m not judicious in my spending at the end of the day, who’s going to maintain me in my twilight years – the state? Who? Ultimately it means someone else is bearing it right, another taxpayer. So if I’m not judicious and I’m arguing this is my money, I’m not going to be responsible in my use and if I argue this is your money, you use it anyway you want – I’m not responsible as a citizen.”
All this was clearly directed to people in support of the #ReturnMyCPF movement.
She ends off with this, ”We have a Budget that has been praised and approved as leaning to the left. But I would also argue that if we lean too much to the left, we will not have much left.”
Nobody likes their money to be kept away, even if it was for their own use.
100% of the CPF money is yours and nothing stays with the state. But even in that case, it is still money held in trust and one must remember that while the money is yours, it is not yours to control.
NMP Chia Yong Yong is Singapore’s first wheelchair user in Parliament. She is also the President of the Society for Aid to the Paralysed. Her role in Parliament include calling on the government to place a greater and more integrated emphasis on training those with disabilities, helping them to empower and equip them to be financially independent.