SINGAPORE: Kenneth Jeyaretnam, the secretary-general of the Reform Party, proposed that the government should provide senior citizens with a basic pension of at least S$500 in cash each month instead of distributing Community Development Council (CDC) vouchers.
These vouchers, perceived as a marketing tactic according to Mr Jeyaretnam, divert 50% of their value primarily to entities affiliated with the ruling party.
On Wednesday, the Singaporean Government rolled out S$500 (US$376) worth of Community Development Council (CDC) vouchers, providing Singaporean households access to these vouchers for use at participating supermarkets and local businesses.
As reported by Singapore state media the Straits Times (ST), shortly after their release, several listings of these vouchers surfaced on the online marketplace Carousell, priced at around S$440, just hours after becoming redeemable.
Some sellers mentioned preferring cash over vouchers to address their financial needs, such as paying bills. These listings had been removed from Carousell.
In a Facebook post, Mr Jeyaretnam highlighted the CDC vouchers being sold online for less than 90% of their face value, prompting questions about the actual cost to the government for these vouchers.
Earlier, it was revealed that approximately 1.27 million Singaporean households were eligible to receive the January 2024 CDC vouchers, incurring a government cost of S$635 million.
He criticized PM Lee’s New Year’s message for what he deemed as “misleading and disingenuous propaganda” regarding the government’s assistance to lower-income Singaporeans
“Yet he is silent on the cash surpluses accumulated by his Government almost every year for decades. In the period 2004 to now only one year was a deficit and the accumulated surpluses amounted to more than S$400 billion.”
According to the Singapore government Factually, over the last two decades excluding FY2020, the Government recorded on average a fiscal balance of S$2.2 billion per annum.
Furthermore, he criticized the massive asset base underpinning the Net Investment Returns Contribution (NIRC), denouncing it for saving wealth intended for future generations while Singaporeans experience tax hikes and are advised to adopt frugal lifestyles despite the perceived abundance of state resources.
Urgent calls for holistic action addressing inequalities and soaring living costs
Comments on Mr Jeyaretnam’s Facebook post resonated with the need for the Singaporean government to tackle inequalities and the rising cost of living more effectively than the CDC vouchers.
For instance, a comment highlighted the imbalance in wealth distribution in Singapore, despite its status as one of the wealthiest nations globally.
He pointed out that despite a high GDP, the benefits don’t reach the average Singaporean, resulting in an inability to enjoy a standard of living comparable to countries like Switzerland.
“It simply means that the distribution of wealth must be fairer and more equitable, ” the comment added.
The netizen echoed Mr Jeyaretnam’s stance, suggesting that Singapore could afford to provide senior citizens with a more substantial monthly allowance, suggesting figures of S$700-800.
Expressing concern, a netizen shed light on the stark reality that many Singaporeans are grappling with hand-to-mouth situations, attributing the escalating social issues to the policies implemented by the governing party.
Inadequacy of CDC vouchers to mitigate the effect of GST hike
Furthermore, a different comment highlighted the inadequacy of CDC vouchers in mitigating the increased expenses due to the rising Goods and Services Tax (GST).
The netizen pointed out that some local coffee shops have already raised their prices to $2 per cup, illustrating the limited impact of the vouchers.
Additionally, netizens expressed their views on The ST’s Facebook post, emphasizing that vouchers are insufficient for essential bill payments such as utilities.
They suggested reducing CPF rates to enable individuals to bring home more cash instead of having their funds locked up in CPF accounts.
Moreover, certain discussions advocated for cash handouts, arguing that vouchers have limited usability, being applicable only at specific locations.
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