SINGAPORE: A concerned retiree in Singapore recently voiced her distress over the increasing cost of living, highlighting the significant reduction in her retirement budget, which has compelled her and her husband to take on intermittent odd jobs to make ends meet.
According to a recent Facebook post by Jeffrey Khoo, Deputy Organising Secretary of the Progress Singapore Party (PSP), the encounter took place during his interaction with residents at a local wet market, where the retiree conveyed her concerns about the cost of living in Singapore.
The lady informed Mr Khoo that she and her husband retired in their late 60s a decade ago, and with no children to provide financial support, their financial situation has become increasingly challenging.
She expressed her frustration, using the metaphor of an “exchange rate” that has seemingly shifted from “one chicken for a chicken wing” to “two chickens,” highlighting the rising disparity between expenses and bills, and available resources including government subsidies.
This sentiment echoes a common criticism among ordinary Singaporeans, who often feel that government subsidies, likened to being given a mere “chicken wing” before having the whole chicken taken away, are inadequate in light of the soaring costs of living.
Apparently, the metaphor used by the elderly reflects her frustration with the general cost of living in Singapore, which has been exacerbated by factors such as inflation, increases in water prices, GST, HDB resale prices, surges in vehicle COE (Certificate of Entitlement) costs, and other related economic pressures.
The retiree further emphasized the insufficiency of these subsidies, emphasizing the additional strain imposed by health concerns and the need to seek occasional employment.
As a last resort, they are also trying to rent out one of their rooms in their HDB flat to receive some income. She is heartbroken about this move as their privacy will be compromised but there seems to be no other choice.
“While they can come up with all the logical arguments to raise this price and that price, but they can’t feel our pain, I am disappointed!” the lady told Mr Khoo.
She concluded her conversation with Mr. Khoo by imparting a well-known Chinese proverb, “If you are not pricked by the needle, you won’t know how painful the experience is (针刺不到你身上，你永远不知道有多痛).”
Calls for enhanced support for vulnerable Singaporeans amid rising living costs and insufficient healthcare subsidies
In response to Mr. Khoo’s post, many netizens have expressed solidarity with the elderly’s plight.
One comment specifically highlighted the disproportionate rise in living expenses since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, lamenting the perceived lack of commensurate improvements in healthcare subsidies.
The comment urged for greater consideration for less fortunate Singaporeans, emphasizing the need for more comprehensive support measures to address the challenges faced by vulnerable segments of society.
Another netizen shared a heartbreaking account of a taxi driver in his 60s who is unable to retire due to the burden of high medical costs for his chronic illness, which he has been struggling with for the past three decades.
The netizen recounted how the taxi driver sought additional assistance from a medical social worker but was informed that he did not qualify for further aid because of his 5-room flat.
When the taxi driver explained his financial constraints, the social worker suggested selling or downsizing the flat, or alternatively renting out the extra rooms.
Despite his concerns about his son’s future housing needs, the social worker proposed that the entire family should squeeze into one room and rent out the others, a suggestion that left the taxi driver feeling disheartened and helpless.
Furthermore, the netizen also highlighted the case of their spouse’s aunt, who, in her 70s, had to undergo a back surgery with a specific choice of a robotic arm, resulting in a higher medical bill that she had to pay with a substantial amount of cash, despite the deductions from her Medisave and MediShield.
The netizen questioned why more of her Medisave couldn’t be utilized to offset the bill and expressed concern about what would have happened if she did not have the extra cash to cover the cost of her preferred surgery.
Netizen questions PAP’s housing policies and healthcare system efficacy amid financial struggles
Meanwhile, another comment suggested the PSP to seek clarification in Parliament, specifically regardng whether citizens who do not meet the prerequisites for social support, especially concerning medical bills, are advised to leverage their HDB flats as the ultimate solution.
“On one hand, PAP encourages citizens to buy HDB flats and start own families. At the same time, we hear stories like the above. And again, we are also encouraged to treat our homes as speculative monetary assets. So, what is what exactly? PAP’s messages are so contradictory at times”
Separately, the comment posed a thought-provoking question: if a citizen has to sell their flat to cover medical expenses, can it be viewed as an indication of a failure in the public healthcare system?
Only 50% of Singapore’s active CPF members met FRS in cash for 2022
During a recent Parliament session on 5 October, Dr Tan See Leng, Singapore’s Minister of Manpower, revealed that in 2022, approximately half of all active CPF members at age 55, totalling 19,700 individuals, successfully met the Full Retirement Sum (FRS) requirement by saving in cash.
In comparison, seven in 10 active CPF members who turned age 55 last year set aside the CPF Basic Retirement Sum (BRS) or more.
The BRS for CPF members turning age 55 in 2022 is S$96,000, while the FRS is S$192,000, according to the factsheet provided by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM).
Only 65% of active CPF members aged 55 achieved the BRS and owned property
Notably, the report “Minimum Income Standard 2023: Household Budgets in a Time of Rising Costs,” conducted by NTU and LKYSPP, highlighted that only 65% of active CPF members who turned 55 in 2021 have either saved enough for the CPF Basic Retirement Sum (BRS) and owned a property, or had saved the Full Retirement Sum.
The report noted that Within the Central Provident Fund (CPF), modest hikes to the BRS and FRS didn’t have a significant impact on the adequacy of retirement income.
When asked by MPs about the ministry’s measures to increase the awareness of adequate retirement planning amongst employees, especially older workers, Dr Tan stressed that ensuring basic retirement adequacy begins with maintaining a competitive economy that generates quality employment opportunities.
“We uplift lower-wage workers through Workfare and Progressive Wage moves. Singaporeans can be assured that they will be able to meet their basic retirement needs as long as they work and contribute consistently to CPF.”
Dr Tan also disclosed that approximately seven out of every ten active CPF members who turned 55 in 2022 successfully set aside the CPF Basic Retirement Sum or more.
He expressed optimism that this figure would improve to around eight out of ten for CPF members reaching the age of 55 in 2027.
Dr Tan says the government support Singaporean senior to work longer to further strengthen their retirement adequacy
In response to the increasing life expectancy of Singapore’s seniors who desire to remain engaged in the workforce, Dr Tan said the PAP government are committed to providing support.
“We will support them by increasing the statutory retirement and re-employment ages to 65 and 70 respectively by 2030, up from 63 and 68 today.”
“This will enable our seniors to work longer if they wish to and further strengthen their retirement adequacy.”
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