Monday, 9 March 2015

CPF: Not Just Your Money


According to Nominated MP Chia Yong Yong, because the individual isn’t the only person contributing to their CPF accounts, but some monies are contributed from employers and the occasional top-ups from public funds, we don’t get to decide how we spend it. Perhaps we should now reconsider if the interests earned in our CPF accounts actually belong to us.

I’m sometimes shocked by the nonsense that gets spouted in parliament. We talk about wanting a first-world parliament with first-world quality debates. Sadly, I see it becoming like a never-ending TV drama. But nothing like Days of our Lives. According to Ms Chia:
Because I am not the only person contributing to that fund, I cannot be the only person to call the shots as to how I’m going to spend it.
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Is It Really Our Money?

The first thought that comes to mind: what's a nice girl like that doing in politics? Chia Yong Yong  was diagnosed with peroneal muscular atrophy at age 15. As her muscle tissue progressively weakened, she had to resort to crutches, and then a wheelchair. She has not been able to stand for 20 years and her hands have grown limp and curled as well. The perfect posture child for president of the Society for the Physically Disabled since 2008.

But we worry for her mental faculties when she argues that our life savings stowed away in the Central Provident Fund (CPF), is not our money.
"Is it our money? Our CPF savings are enhanced and forced CPF savings which are accumulated through our own deferred consumption, through co-payment by our employers and through top-ups from public funds. Is it really my private money? Do I have the right to spend it the way I would spend my own salary? I’m not entirely sure.”
This is not just a gaffe like the one committed by another lawyer who insisted that managing agent (MA) rates at Town Councils are identical for residential and commercial properties. One suspects she spoke not from her heart, or cranium capacity, but political motivations. The clue lies in her other affiliations: member of Our Singapore Conversation Committee (formerly National Conversation a.k.a. NatCon), member of the REACH Supervisory Panel (the Singapore Government’s "feedback" apparatus), member of the Council of the Law Society’s panel of approved Mediators and Investigative Tribunal members. The last being one who sees fit to deem a lawyer unfit to practise because of suspect medical condition.

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CPF are not our monies, really?

As I sit listening to the “Highlights of Parliament” these nights and glancing through “Straits Times” during lunch hour, this elderly auntie cannot help but feel a sense of despair and hopelessness made even worse with Nominated Member of Parliament (NMP) Chia Yong Yong’s speech.

I am very much appalled by her mannerism and tone in reaction to the Worker’s Party (WP)’s Chairman, that I decided to do a quick search on her and realized she is the sister of an active People’s Action Party (PAP) member which answers why she said the things she say. Pretty much “birds of a feather, flock together”, like how former presidential candidate Tan Kin Lian defended Tin Peiling’s track record (if any).

This incident alone demonstrates why the NMP scheme should be scraped by the next General Election and the opposition should be campaigning even louder on its abolition. We cannot have PAP appointed individuals who have not gone through “electoral baptism” to have a say in the running of our lives, what more 9 says!

related: 10 reasons why CPF savings are unquestionably your money

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CPF Money Is Still Not Your Money!
Perhaps Ms Chia's disability is not just limited to her legs, but her cranial matter as well

So whose money is it? Do employers have a share in your CPF monies? Does the Govt have a share? Ms Chia thinks they do. But the easiest way to find out if she's right or wrong is to look at the PAP Govt for the answer. Do you think any single Minister or MP will dare to come out in the open and repeat Ms Chia's words - to say point blank - your CPF money doesn't really or fully belong to you?

Why not say it during an election campaign? Until now, no matter what their views to the contrary are, none have dared to repeat this 'bullshit' openly. Why? Because if any 1 of them dares to say this, we can already foretell their political fate - it and they will become the main issue during the campaign and will face a major voter backlash.

But Ms Chia can say all of this, because she's just an NMP. And in doing so, shows the problem with the whole NMP scheme, instead of getting views from a broad spectrum, especially ordinary people, the scheme is awarded to 'eminent persons' who use this as a chance to further ingratiate themselves with the political elite. No doubt Ms Chia is handicapped and wheel-chair bound, and yes, she had some tough spells in her life as such, but at the end of the day, she just happens to be a lawyer as well. I have met a few wheel-chair bound persons who are no where close in qualifications to her. Some can find work, and some can't. But theirs is a real slog. They need every assistance they can get, every subsidy and it's plain insulting to suggest whatever monies they have in the CPF doesn't actually or fully belong to them. Ms Chia can well afford it, but they and many others can't and it's a sick joke to make such an outrageous statement in Parliament. The other writer suggests perhaps Ms Chia smoked 'ganja' before making her speech. I'll cover the other angle - maybe she had a little too much to drink and what followed are the nonsensical words of a drunkard. Or maybe it's her idea of an early April's Fools joke. Do us a favour Ms Chia - resign from Parliament now.

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The money in my CPF account is my money, period.

I can see the point she wants to put across – i.e. we need to be aware of the extra cost society have to bear when some people used their retirement funds irresponsibly. But if she wants to emphasize on personal responsibility, Chia Gong Gong Yong Yong has used the worst way to put it across and it completely drowned out the point she is trying to make. Really, she has no need to gild the lily (or what we Chinese would have said – 画蛇添足).

First of all, does it make the money in my CPF account any less my money simply because the employer co-paid part of it? As far as my employer is concerned, the current 16% they are contributing to my CPF is a part of my gross salary. Simply put, my gross pay (pre-CPF deductions) is actually 116% of what is stated in my payslip. So in reality I am actually saving a bit more than 31% of my real gross salary into the CPF. It is preposterous for Chia to argue that because a law makes the employer pay the employee $11.60 instead of $10 an hour, that extra $1.60 does not belong to employee when he only took home $8.


Next, it is ridiculous to argue that because there will be some people who are irresponsible in using their money, we thus deny those who are in need a greater flexibility in withdrawing their CPF Funds. Is she even listening to what the Workers’ Party (WP) was proposing? Had the WP been arguing for unrestricted flexibility in CPF withdrawals, she would have a reason to caution against it. But in this case, she should have just shut up and said nothing instead of pandering to the PAP.

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CPF is not your money, the drumming starts

NMP Chia Yong Yong’s debutante speech in Parliament is exactly the right kind of speech the Govt is waiting to hear, and must be very pleased with it. CPF money is not the CPF member’s money, or at least not all. Her reason, the employer’s contribution would not be there if the Govt did not legislate it to be there. And the Govt also tops up once in a while. So, the CPF members cannot decide how and when it should take it out and how to spend it. Tiok Boh? See, when the Govt helps you, by topping up your CPF, see what is going to happen to your money? So scary.

All the charity organizations in Singapore that I have contributed my $2 to, using the same reasoning, please, the money is not yours and you have no right to do as you please. I want to have a say. All the civil servants and ministers and MPs, your salary is paid by taxpayers’ money and I am a taxpayer, I contributed part of your salary, you cannot anyhow spend your salary without my permission ok?

KNN, I am also confused. So, please tell me the money in my CPF account belongs to who? Who has the right to use it, spend it or use it to buy Medishield Life or CPF Life? Oh dear, if the entity that decides how to spend the money must be the owner of the money, then I retract my question. Sorry, take it that I never ask. It just confirms that the money is not my money because I cannot or did not decide or give permission for the CPF to buy CPF Life and Medishield Life Insurance for me. And yes, I also cannot decide when I can take out the money and how much I want to take out for my own use. So, on these grounds it is not my money. Tiok Boh?

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Chia Yong Yong: From "lean left till nothing left" to "CPF is our money"

But I fear all is lost because her in now shorthand, "CPF is not your money" will eclipse the other catch phrase.

Look, even the PM had chosen to quote her on CPF as "our money".

I don't know who advises the PM on communication. Often I found him making poor choices in timing and words.

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Three reasons why you may have mistaken NMP Chia Yong Yong as a PAP MP

As many of us are aware, the Nominated Member of Parliaments (NMP) are selected to provide more independent and diverse voices in the House.

They are chosen from functional groups, such as (a) business and industry; (b) labour; (c) the professions; (d) social and community service organisations; (e) tertiary educational institutions; and (f) media, the arts and the sports organisations.

The PAP is not represented as one of the functional groups, especially since there are already 80 of them.

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PAP leaning too much to the left

While Budget 2015 has been praised be some Members of Parliament (MPs) and observers as being left-leaning, Nominated MP Chia Yong Yong today (March 3) cautioned against an expenditure that leans too heavily to the left, leading to members in the House thumping their armrests in approval.

Speaking in Parliament during the debate on the Budget Speech, Ms Chia said: “We have in conclusion, a budget that is arguably very generous, and for which I am also very thankful. We have a budget that has been praised and approved as being leaning to the left.”

“But I would also argue that if we lean too much to the left, we will not have much left,” said Ms Chia.

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Chia Yong Yong: a stupid NMP

Reading the comments, it’s clear that she thinks that the employers’ contributions are not part of our salaries. Hello? What planet is she on?

Even employers think that their payments are part of the employee’ salaries. I’ve been at job interviews where “my salary” includes “XYZ’s contribution”. And when I had to decide how much to offer someone to do a job, I took account of the CPF contribution that I, as employer, had to pay: which is why FTs are so popular.

As to .”because I’m not the only person contributing to the fund, I cannot be the only person to call the shots”, doesn’t she realise that what we have in our CPF (less the peanuts of govt handout) is dependent on what we put in, not a cent less or more.

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NMP Chia Yong Yong: CPF savings not your money
NMP Chia Yong Yong (Photo: Parliament website)

NMP Chia Yong Yong spoke out in Parliament yesterday (3 Mar) against giving greater flexibility for Singaporeans to withdraw their CPF savings.

She said this would place a great fiscal obligation on future generations. She felt that people shouldn’t be spending their CPF savings like they would be spending their own salary. This is because CPF savings are enhanced by co-payment from employers and through top-ups from public funds.

Ms Chia said:
  • In relation to the use of CPF money, we have heard proponents who say that the CPF monies is theirs. “It’s our money, it’s in our account, it’s our retirement money. I want it out, I will spend it anyway we want.” Fine. Is it our money? Our CPF savings are enhanced and forced CPF savings which are accumulated through our own deferred consumption, through co-payment by our employers and through top-ups from public funds. Is it really my private money? Do I have the right to spend it the way I would spend my own salary? I’m not entirely sure.
  • I know at the end of the day, that because I’m not the only person contributing to the fund, I cannot be the only person to call the shots as to how I am going to spend it. At the very least, I have a moral obligation to spend it wisely. Why do I say that? Because if I’m not judicious in my spending at the end of the day, who’s going to maintain me in my twilight years – the state? Who? Ultimately it means someone else is bearing it right, another taxpayer. So if I’m not judicious and I’m arguing this is my money, I’m not going to be responsible in my use and if I argue this is your money, you use it anyway you want – I’m not responsible as a citizen.
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NMP against allowing greater flexibility for CPF withdrawals

Nominated MP Chia Yong Yong spoke out against greater flexibility in withdrawing CPF savings in Parliament on Tuesday … Ms Chia noted that it should be viewed in the context of personal responsibilities. For instance, on CPF savings – she felt that people shouldn’t be spending like they would be spending their own salary. This is because CPF savings are enhanced by co-payment by employers and through top-ups from public funds.

Ms Chia said: “In relation to the use of CPF money, we have heard proponents who say that the CPF monies is theirs. “It’s our money, it’s in our account, it’s our retirement money. I want it out, I will spend it anyway we want.” Fine. Is it our money? Our CPF savings are enhanced and forced CPF savings which are accumulated through our own deferred consumption, through co-payment by our employers and through top-ups from public funds. Is it really my private money? Do I have the right to spend it the way I would spend my own salary? I’m not entirely sure.

“I know at the end of the day, that because I’m not the only person contributing to the fund, I cannot be the only person to call the shots as to how I am going to spend it. At the very least, I have a moral obligation to spend it wisely. Why do I say that? Because if I’m not judicious in my spending at the end of the day, who’s going to maintain me in my twilight years – the state? Who? Ultimately it means someone else is bearing it right, another taxpayer. So if I’m not judicious and I’m arguing this is my money, I’m not going to be responsible in my use and if I argue this is your money, you use it anyway you want – I’m not responsible as a citizen.”

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PM and Ng Eng Hen praise Chia Yong Yong’s speech

Yesterday night (4 Mar), PM Lee wrote on his Facebook page, praising Ms Chia for making an “excellent speech”. It was also revealed that it was PM Lee who “strongly encouraged” Ms Chia to speak about the CPF issues in Parliament:
  • The Budget debate began yesterday. NMP Chia Yong Yong made an excellent speech about the CPF. I was not in the chamber to hear her, but watched it later on YouTube.
  • Yong Yong cast the question in a broader perspective: whether it is right to think of the CPF as “our money”, to be spent solely as we choose. She explained how choice always comes with responsibility, and benefits always carry obligations. When we exercise personal choice (e.g. by spending our CPF savings early), there is a price to be paid (e.g. we may not have enough to support ourselves in old age), and that price should not be paid by someone else (e.g. other taxpayers).
  • Yong Yong had asked me earlier whether we had settled the CPF policy, and if so was it worth her while to speak. I said we had worked out the main changes, but strongly encouraged her to express her view and contribute to the public debate. I am glad that she did, and to such good effect.
Weighing in to support Ms Chia was also Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen. He also wrote on his Facebook page yesterday praising Ms Chia.

Mr Ng said, “She (Chia Yong Yong) said that collective responsibility must take place in the context of personal responsibility. Without personal responsibility, collective responsibility would break down.” He added:
  • “Intuitively, we know this to be true, because if too many did not take care of their own needs due to neglect or wrong choices, then others would have to support them and the burden would be too great for all to bear,”
Mr Ng also said that “our founding generation” believed as Ms Chia did, that self and family should be the first line of support and then society – not the reverse. Mr Ng tried to leverage on Ms Chia’s disability to politicize the CPF issue, discouraging giving greater flexibility for Singaporeans to withdraw their CPF savings:
  • Ms Chia is the President of SPD (Society for the Physically Disabled) and widely known for her accomplishments despite a muscle wasting disorder. So I thought her remarks on personal responsibility had a lot of credibility given her own life story and personal struggles. I respect her.
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Singapore Daily:
TOC: 10 reasons why CPF savings are unquestionably your money
Anyhow Hantam: Joke of the Year Part 2: CPF Money Is Still Not Your Money!
The Lycan Times: The money in my CPF account is my money. Period.
Yours Truly S'pore: Employer contributed CPF rightfully belongs to employees
2econdsight: Superficial Idealist Meets Superfixated Ideologues
Likedatosocanmeh: CPF not ours, Sporeans must decide at the next election
否极泰来 Piji Tailai: Political Monopoly & 1 Party Rule Lead To Uncertain Future
TR Emeritus: CPF: Where are the state’s obligations, Mr Lee?
Everything Also Complain: PAP leaning too much to the left
My Singapore News: CPF is not your money, the drumming starts
NewNation: CPF money is your money if U think it is, not your money if U think it isn’t
Mothership: 3 reasons Y you may have mistaken NMP Chia Yong Yong as PAP MP
TR Emeritus: NMP Chia Yong Yong’s arguments make sense
Blogging4Myself: ChiaYongYong:From “lean left till nothing left”to“CPF is our money”
Tots of a Cynical Investor: Chia Yong Yong: a stupid NMP
Zit Seng’s Blog: CPF: Not Just Your Money
Singapore Notes: Is It Really Our Money?
SgInAustralia: Rather Throw My Money into Bedok Reservoir than Pay My Wife CPF
Likedatosocanmeh: Only way to stop CPF scam – remove PAP from power


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