Thursday, July 5, 2007


Minister Lim Swee Say, MPs for Marine Parade GRC Mr Lim Biow Chuan and Dr Fatimah Lateef were welcomed by the girl pipers and Mountbatten Constituency Grassroots Leaders (GRLs) upon their arrival at the Katong Community Centre at Kampong Arang.

They were then led to the Events Hall, where about 300 residents and GRLs were ready for the dialogue session to comment. MP Mr Lim Biow Chuan the host MP introduced Minister Lim, the other panelist, Dr Fatimah, Mountbatten CCC Chairman Mr Lim Nghee Huat and MCV (Mountbatten) Organising Chairman Mr Chew Siong Hee.

When MP Mr Lim Biow Chuan, invited questions and feedbacks from the floor, I immediately raised my hand, and caught Mr Lim's eyes, I was invited and had the privilege to ask the first question of the dialogue session.

I am very concerned with the issue of Mean Testing, when Minister of Health Mr Khaw Boon Wan mooted the idea a few months back and suggested implementing within a year. In fact, I intended to discuss the issue with Minister Khaw, when he invited seven of us, for lunch on the 25th May 2007, but we were too preoccupied with the discussion on the Opticianary & Optometrist Bill.

I will dedicate my next post on my concern on Mean Testing, and sum up the various feedback I received from friends, associates and peoples that I had met.

Minister Lim's answer was very sincere, concise and well phrased, asking us not to speculate the worst scenerio, as Ministry of Health is still working on the details, nothing specified yet. Minister Lim continued to say that Singaporeans need to accept that the needy require more subsidies.

He said public healthcare costs are going up but government revenue may not increase at the same pace, hence there is a need for means testing to allocate limited resources more suitably. Especially when health cost is increasing with an aging population.

He added that, Singaporeans should be familiar with this concept as only families, whose household income is less than S$8,000 a month qualify for public housing subsidy. That is a form of means testing that is not disputed as much as healthcare.

The next question was raised by a female resident. She raised the issue that SME and micro-businesses had problems with government policy on tightening labour market. Due to the strict laws on employing foreign workers and granting them work permits, they have to hire illegal workers.

Minister Lim replied that more foreign workers will be allowed in, but raising the employment of older workers, low-income workers and getting housewives to return to the workplace are top priorities. An overly liberal approach to work permits may impede efforts in these areas.

The 3rd question was raised by another GRL, Mr Michael Chwee. He was referring, his concern on proposal on CPF withdrawal, when extending the retirement age from 62 to 65 by Minister Lim Boon Heng, who is tasked to look into the problem of the aged. The withdrawal of CPF's minimum sum (of up to $100,000) which is set aside, only allowed to withdraw at present age of 62 be extended to tie with the new proposed retirement age of 65.

Minister Lim, who is also the Secretary-General of NTUC, said: "Don't speculate and assume the worse – that the government is going to keep the CPF money for many years to come. That is not the scenario the government is working towards." The scenario that the government is working towards is an economy where older workers can be re-employed in the same job, part-time or with a slightly different job scope. But Singapore has a long way to go as the employment rate of those aged 60 to 64 is currently at 42 percent.

Minister Lim said: "25 years ago our life expectancy was less than 70 years old. Today, 25 years later, our life expectancy is about 80 years old. I'm very sure that 25 years from now, our life expectancy could be 85 or 90 years old. So we have to ask these very tough questions... will Singaporeans have enough savings and earnings to see him or her through this longer life span? If the answer is yes, then none of us need to worry, but I don't think the answer is yes. "If you continue to have an income, you can defer drawing your CPF by another two to four years. This way, by the time you really stop working, there will be more money in your CPF. You can also earn interest in your CPF account."

Another female resident Mrs Lim, seek clarification on Mean Testing only applied to Class C Ward and not Class B2 Ward. Minister replied that he believed it only involved Class C Ward.

By this time, the organiser noticed that Minister Lim had exceeded the time available to him, he was scheduled for another meeting. He apologised for taking too long in his answer, and requested that any other questions or feedbacks be delievered to Host MP, Mr Lim Biow Chuan or email to him. The residents and guests were invited to lunch.

No comments: