The Pioneer Generation Package released during the pioneer generation reception at the Istana gave Singaporeans a nice 4D number to bet on (hint: 6586), but more than that, it gave many seniors something to look forward to.
More details were released during budget 2014 and although the full details are not out yet, many have started to speculate and some have raised concerns about the PGP.
There are skeptics. So was I, and so I had reflected on some of the issues:
1. If the aim of the package is to help our pioneer generation, why is there no means testing?
There is a big difference between helping the needy in our society and honouring our pioneer generation. There are many existing social assistance schemes in place to help those who are unable to make ends meet. Our social assistance schemes are already extended to our seniors who are part of our pioneer generation, so I don’t believe there is a need to make the PGP a social assistance scheme.
In honouring our pioneer generation, everyone should be given the same because it is the spirit of thanking this generation for their contribution to Singapore. Both the rich AND the poor have worked hard to make Singapore what it is today. It is not just beneficial, but also symbolic. It is not the quantum that matters, but also the thought.
PGP and social assistance schemes are not mutually exclusive; they are complements to each other.
If you know anyone who needs financial assistance, you can direct them to the Community Development Centre.
2. Why is the Government only helping one sector of society with Medical Bills, neglecting the rest?
Medical treatment is expensive. Professional cost, equipment cost, it doesn’t come free. The question is who bears a bigger burden? People or Government? Here’s a reality check, the Government’s budget comes primarily from taxes and investments from our reserves. The truth is, there is no question. You pay for your healthcare.
The difference is whether you pay for only your own healthcare, or you give everyone the illusion that someone else is paying for your healthcare (and end up collectively spending more).
Many of our policies have been designed around “self reliance”, so as to reduce overconsumption.
For the sake of argument, let’s say we make healthcare more ‘affordable’. Who defines what is affordable?
By providing heavily subsidized medical care to the pioneer generation, we are rewarding them for their contributions to Singapore and letting them enjoy the fruit of their labour. By accounting for the full cost of the PGP in one Budget, assuming the estimated 8 billion is sufficient, we are eliminating the need to make one generation pay for another, later on.
When Medishield life comes out next year, To ensure that premiums for the new MediShield Life remain affordable, the Government will provide permanent subsidies for lower- and middle-income groups so that they can fully pay their remaining premiums out of regular Medisave contributions. To ease the transition into MediShield Life, the Government will also provide subsidies to offset premium increases for the first few years.
The committee set up to look at Medishield Life hasn’t even come up with the actual premium, I would be eagerly watching for it.
3. Claim: This is PAP’s way of buying one-time off votes.
If it was, it is a most ineffective means of doing so. It also benefits a future government (in today’s climate, this is not entirely impossible) and this is not the PAP style of doing things.
Whether this PGP is the first and last one largely depends on us. If Singapore is able to continue to progress well and ensure good economic growth, then the government (of the day) will be able to make the next PGP a reality. That is the reason why the PGP is a PGP and not a Seniors Package. A Seniors Package would imply that it is a given that every generation will rewarded as such. But the day we have to dig into our reserves to provide that package, Singaporeans of the next generation are going to suffer.