Ex-GIC chief economist Yeoh Lam Keong has urged the Government to set aside more funds for the elderly and to improve the insufficient Pioneer Generation Package and Silver Support Scheme, to allow seniors to have a more dignified and secure retirement.
Earlier this month, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) and Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) responded to a study that raised questions on whether elderly Singaporeans have enough to meet their needs in their twilight years.
The study, ‘What Older People Need In Singapore’ by a team of researchers at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, found that a single person in Singapore aged 65 and above would need at least S$1,379 a month to sustain a basic standard of living.
The study also found that a couple aged 65 and above would need S$2,351 a month to sustain a basic standard of living and that four in five senior citizens depended on their adult children as their source of income, as of 2011.
In its first comments on the study, the MOM and MSF acknowledged that the ageing population and smaller family sizes are putting a strain on adult children as a main income source for the elderly.
The Government, however, asserted that “future cohorts of seniors will still have more resources to retire on due to improvements in education and incomes over the years.”
Asserting that he found it “very difficult to see much insight” in an article covering the Government’s response, Mr Yeoh wrote on social media: “I find it even more difficult to do so given the shameful plight of our current elderly poor and the huge bulge of low income baby boomer seniors (demographically our biggest cohort) that will swell their ranks greatly over coming decades.
“Many do not even have secondary school education and have labored to help build modern Singapore at a time when middle income country wages were low but have to retire in an expensive first world city.”
Mr Yeoh went on to suggest that a “more meaningful” Pioneer Generation Package to help the elderly have a more secure and dignified retirement would be to give “$500-600 more a month over and above a measly current $250 in our silver support scheme”.
Mr Yeoh added that the fiscal cost of giving more to the elderly would be low and would translate to “0.3% of GDP today peaking at 0.6% in 2050”.
This is not the first time that the former chief economist has spoken up about giving more to the elderly.
In November last year, he asked Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing why the Government puts the onus of helping the underprivileged on the people instead of “redoubling its current insufficient efforts” to help the less privileged.
Days after he published his post on improving the Silver Support Scheme, Mr Yeoh reiterated his desire that the Government should implement fiscally responsible social reforms, if it is serious about tackling inequality in Singapore.
Asserting that Singapore cannot seriously tackle inequality without undertaking social reforms, that should have been implemented decades ago, Mr Yeoh pointed to the insufficient support the poor and elderly receive as one of the areas the Government needs to look at. He said:
“Both the Workfare Income Supplement (WIS) and Silver Support Scheme (SSS) for our poorest citizens and elderly are set at miserly and insufficient levels (around $300 mostly in CPF and $250 a month respectively).
“Raising both by $500-$600 a month in cash to greatly alleviate absolute poverty would be easily affordable fiscally yet we refuse to do so.” -/TISG