Retirement adequacy, healthcare and cost of living are top concerns of Singaporeans, a pre-Budget 2015 feedback exercise by REACH showed. These topics accounted for about a third of feedback gathered the Government feedback portal said in a news release on Monday (Feb 16).
The exercise, jointly organised by REACH and the Ministry of Finance, collected feedback from online platforms, email, booths known as Listening Points, and a pre-Budget dialogue between late November last year and end-January.
The exercise showed that Singaporeans are concerned about having enough funds after retirement to cope with daily expenses and rising cost of living – particularly for those who have not fully paid up their housing loans.
There was “anticipation” among some Singaporeans that the Silver Support Scheme would help them, REACH said. “Nevertheless, there were also views that individuals need to take responsibility by not overextending themselves when buying their homes, and preparing for their retirement,” REACH added.
Notably, the feedback had been collected before the recommendations of a Central Provident Fund (CPF) Advisory Panel were announced earlier this month, and respondents in the feedback exercise had asked for greater withdrawal flexibility from their CPF accounts upon retirement, which the panel had recommended.
Some were worried that the CPF Minimum Sum “might be increasingly be out of reach for lower-income and vulnerable Singaporeans”, REACH said.
Regarding the CPF Minimum Sum Topping-Up Scheme, some contributors suggested the Government match top-ups dollar-for-dollar to encourage more to contribute to the retirement accounts of their family members. However, some said this might only benefit the well-to-do who are cash-rich.
Several were concerned that medical and hospitalisation costs may become increasingly unmanageable “especially for patients with chronic and life-threatening conditions”, REACH found. This is despite the introduction of the MediShield Life scheme which will be implemented in end-2015.
Many contributors said the Government should look into shortening waiting time for treatment at hospitals, increasing manpower and providing more hospital beds to meet rising healthcare demands.
They also recommended providing healthcare workers with more training on customer relations, and having translators in hospitals to overcome language barriers.
COST OF LIVING
The exercise saw many Singaporeans calling for more financial assistance to subsidise “everyday goods and services”. Some felt the Government should distribute cash handouts, grocery vouchers, and regulate the prices of goods to keep them affordable.
Many felt that their salaries had not kept pace with rising inflation, and there were comments that the Government should not just focus on helping the lower-income as the middle-income were also feeling the pinch, REACH said.
“Singaporeans continue to worry about rising cost of living which the Government seeks to address through various measures,” said REACH chairman and Senior Minister of State for Health, Dr Amy Khor. “But a key way to help Singaporeans cope with the cost of living must be to enable and equip them with the relevant skills so that they can have better jobs and better pay.”