Government urged to review CPF holistically

Government urged to review CPF holistically
The CPF system can provide adequately for retirement with prudent choice of housing, a paper by NUS economists in 2012 showed. TODAY FILE PHOTO
Published: 4:12 AM, May 21, 2014
Updated: 11:15 AM, May 21, 2014
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SINGAPORE — Beyond gradually raising contribution rates, the Government would need to re-examine the Central Provident Fund (CPF) system holistically as it seeks to ensure Singaporeans have enough for their financial needs in their golden years, observers and Members of Parliament have said.

Among their suggestions are increasing the interest rates for the Ordinary Account (OA) and Retirement Account (RA), lowering the withdrawal limits for buying property and relooking the allocation between the OA, the RA and the Medisave Account.

Yesterday, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) said it would continue to review and improve the CPF system in consultation with the labour movement and employers, “so Singaporeans can retire with peace of mind, while taking into account the cost implication to employers”.

The MOM was responding to President Tony Tan’s address last Friday at the reopening of the 12th Parliament, when he said the Government would improve the CPF savings and annuity schemes, and develop more options for elderly Singaporeans to monetise their homes. The ministry, however, did not provide details of its review.

To boost older Singaporeans’ financial capability in retirement and improve healthcare affordability, it was announced during the Budget in February that CPF contribution rates for older workers would be increased next year. Amid concerns from employers about higher business costs and that older workers could be less attractive to hire, Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam said the Government did not expect to make further changes soon to total CPF contribution rates.

Members of Parliament (MPs) who spoke to TODAY reiterated that continuously increasing the contribution rates was unsustainable.

Ang Mo Kio GRC MP Inderjit Singh suggested that, in tandem with more affordable housing, the CPF Board could allow Singaporeans to use less money from their OA to buy a property. “If we use less for housing, we will have more for retirement. We start earning 4 per cent (interest rate) earlier,” said Mr Singh, who also suggested raising the interest rates, which currently stand at 2.5 per cent per annum for the OA and 4 per cent for the RA.

Money in the OA can be used to repay housing and education loans, for instance. The RA is to cater to a CPF member’s retirement needs.

Currently, CPF monies are invested in bonds that are issued and guaranteed by the Government. Chua Chu Kang GRC MP Zaqy Mohamad proposed an investment-linked plan managed by the CPF Board to pool together investments from different members and provide higher returns.

The Government stated previously on several occasions that higher returns would entail greater risks.

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