I hope I’m not inviting hate mail with this post but after watching the yahoo news video about the Hong Lim Park protest, I’m not sure what the fuss is about. I’m not sure I follow the organiser’s arguments about “why increase the minimum sum, why not increase the interest rate, why not increase our wages?” Well, hasn’t the last 2 whys been addressed countless times by the government or even just by common sense? The common sense being money doesn’t grow on trees, not even for governments. If we need money for retirement (and we all do or should assume that we do), we just have to save it. The interest on our CPF account is actually very generous. So generous that I personally make the decision not to max out the permissible use my CPF for buying my property because the interest rate is higher than my mortgage interest rate. I appreciate that not everyone has that luxury of choice but then there is always the flexibility to use your CPF for buying property. Beyond securing a roof over your head (which is allowed) though, what is so objectionable about having some money set aside for food, transport and other daily expenses post retirement? What is more important here and now that you need to utilise these funds for rather than setting them aside for retirement use?
If CPF does not exist, I would have done exactly the same with my personal savings, with the only differences being (1) I would actually save more and (2) I would not have been able to get such good returns consistently. So I personally have no problem with CPF. Yes it is paternalistic but since a prudent person should generally be doing the same thing with their earnings anyway, what is the real problem? Now if we had a corrupt government and we were concerned about money potentially going into their pockets, that is a completely different thing, but I do not believe anyone can seriously make that allegation.
Ultimately, the issue I have with many of the alternative voices out there is that their proposals always sound like they are going the way the European countries with their welfare schemes went many years before it all broke down. I remember the many conversations with friends and classmates from welfare states worried about how their country and they themselves are going to survive with taxes going up to fund pensions and other payouts. Why then, are we not learning from their experience? I guess I know. Humans have the tendency to live in the here and now, that’s why we keep burning fuel even though it is detrimental to the environment, that’s why we indulge in unhealthy food knowing they are harmful to health, and that’s why most people actually benefit from a paternalistic (but not oppressive) government that helps safeguard core essentials. My view of the role of a government is to shepherd people towards better collective decisions. It’s role is not to dole out free money and benefits because, quite simply, there is no such thing and ultimately the main source of revenue from which to fund payouts is tax, which comes from you and me.