By: Law Kim Hwee
Given the current, overwhelming approbations and adoration, even, in both social and mainstream media for PAP Elder-cum-Dy PM Tharman, it is with a truckload of trepidation that I approach my blog today….eh, excusez-moi, while I go empty my bladder first so as not to suffer a urinary dysfunction.
Now, where were we….
Let me begin by stating clearly that I admire Mr Tharman for all the same reasons that the majority of we-the-citizens-of-Singapore do. I was lucky enough to have met him personally on 10 Mar 2013 at Taman Jurong Hawker Centre. He extended and followed-up his words of assistance in my job hunt, emailing me a few times. He’s the real deal.
We all recall his admonition to SDP Chee to ‘discuss things openly, tell people the truth‘.
But I am of the view that Tharman doesn’t practise what he preaches – most of the time. Neither with discussing things openly (remember the smack-down in parliament, ‘no strategic purpose‘ for us to know about what went wrong at Temasek with Goodyear) nor, most certainly, with telling the truth, but only selected facts or half-truths.
So, what then the truth behind this beauty of a party elder, a statesman?
To find out, let’s first ‘discuss things openly, tell people the truth’ about our retirement adequacy via our CPF scheme. Tharman claims ‘the CPF system provides a level of retirement adequacy comparable, if not superior, to other pension systems once you take into account the savings that are locked in one’s housing‘.
Scratch deeper and Tharman’s assertion comes up troubling when we consider;
*One’s housing price appreciation must continue to beat inflation between the times of purchase and unlocking. Put differently, for such an retirement plan to work, our children or grandchildren must shoulder the ever-widening gap between house value appreciaction and real inflation. A house of cards, a Ponzi scheme? Perversely, in between, Singaporeans end up funding PRs who buy our HDB units, cash out and retire comfortably in China, India, Malaysia, Philippines.
*HDB statistics show that 117,225, 241,343, 309,007, 256,913 & 85,070 ‘dwelling units’ were built in ’61-’70, ’71-80, ’81-’90, ’91-2000 & 2001-10 respectively. The leasehold balance of the units will continue to age – and their values will correspondingly depreciate.
What then for 2,3 generations of daft ones believing in ‘unlocking’ a sure-bet basic roof over one’s head?
*What if, like the situation that is unfolding before our very eyes today, one happens to ‘retire’ and need to unlock one’s housing – only to face a real estate market in decline with falling prices? And, of course, with Murphy’s Law, that usually happens with one losing one’s job as well.
*Aside from the cold, hard numbers, forcing, coercing or enticing retirees to sell off, rent out one’s ‘home’ where privacy and dignity should be the least one’s left to ask of this life – how’s that for a sense of humanity for fellow we-the-citizens who are less naturally-endowed, less talented to earn more than enough to survive when able-bodied? A heart-of-stone approach to governing?
While I acknowledge the arguments that Yeoh Lam Keong advances for improvements to the 3 pillars to ‘fill up’ our retirement nest, I find it disappointing that the issue of ‘leaks’ from that nest via rent-seeking prices on our public housing is not categorically dealt with at all.
The above factual and situational scenarios I have listed are by not means exhaustive. There are many other unforeseen and unforeseeable developments. Developments that will sink Tharman’s assertion, nay, boast that the PAP’s continuously-managed-for-60 years CPF is built on false hope and Ponzi-like foundations, at least for the less capable ones amongst we-the-citizens.
Will the real Tharman please ‘discuss things openly, tell people the truth’?
In our next post, we try to understand the truth behind Tharman’s modest response to calls for his premiership.