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Why the CPF debate is the perfect example of our lack of political rights

For those who are following the situation regarding our CPF currently, you might feel frustrated. And so you should. It is testament to the lack of political and social rights Singaporeans have in our own country; contrary to what they might have you believe.

Manpower Minister Tan Chuan Jin, states that the current CPF system is valid. In fact, he justifies this by stating that the CPF system is the way it is because it is formulated from a “dignity perspective” as the government wants to ensure people can support themselves, as they grow older.

We do not need a highly intellectual rebuttal to counter his argument. Simple logic will allow us – Singaporeans – to prove to the government that if the CPF is meant to aid our retirement or old age, then what the government is currently doing is counter-productive.

Our CPF in comparison

Let’s put this into a little perspective. As cost of living continues to rise in Singapore (and in the world), it seems counter-productive to have less control of our money.

For instance, between Hong Kong and Singapore, Singapore has been ranked the more expensive city-state. Yet our compulsory contribution is significantly higher at 20% compared to 5% income capped at $1k, which means we have significantly less money to spend now – as income rises – while our draw out age continues to rise. As a result, family planning, quality of life and overall welfare would inevitably decrease.

It is definitely understandable for the government to look out for out future, and the future of our state. But if Singaporeans can’t enjoy the financial freedom our salaries offer, why would Singaporean citizens be invested in Singapore’s future?

Furthermore, Hong Kong enjoys full withdrawal at the designated age compared to our monthly withdrawal for life. This would allow Hong Kong citizens to invest further should they choose to, as they would have the funds for it. We wouldn’t have such a luxury if our payouts were monthly.

But ultimately, as I would like to point out, we should have the luxury of choice when it comes to choosing how we want to spend our money – especially during our retirement years.

We are Singaporeans

The government does well to promote Singaporeans to the world as hardworking, savvy and smart. So why then should the government control how much we choose to take out of our CPF when the time comes? If the government promotes us as highly capable individuals, then they should trust the way we plan our finances for our future. And if we don’t, teach us, don’t treat us like children.

Furthermore, my parents – like many of your parents or you yourself – have worked hard to amass the amount of money that is in their CPF (or at least what remains of it since they used most of it to pay for our HDB flat). Shouldn’t they be entitled to the money they so rightfully deserve?

Also if the government doesn’t allow them the basic social right to control their own finances, they are suggesting that Singaporeans are not smart enough to do so. Is that what the government is insinuating?

My mum works in the civil service. If the government trusts her to be part of a functioning government, then there should be no reason why they can’t trust her with her own (retirement) money.

The money we earn for our retirement is our human right

Who is anyone to suggest to another how they should spend their retirement money? They only have one life, and it shouldn’t be for the service of a government. That is what our taxes are for. If our government cannot understand this, then Singapore is going down a very slippery slope filled with potential human right potholes.

As Zygmunt Bauman said, social and political rights are two sides of the same coin. Deny someone their social right, and they would feel like their political right has been stripped away from them as well. We can be grateful for all our government has done for us – I know I truly am. But when they take away our social freedom, they take away our dignity, which Manpower Minister Tan Chuan Jin is apparently fighting so hard to protect.

I think it is time for our government to reconsider what they think the CPF means to its citizens.