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More help for pioneer generation soon: Tharman

SINGAPORE — The Government will be announcing measures “soon” to help the pioneer generation of Singaporeans who were unable to reap the full benefits of Singapore’s economic rise during their working life.

More help for pioneer generation soon: Tharman

48th National Day Celebration at Taman Jurong with Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam. Photo: Ernest Chua

SINGAPORE — The Government will be announcing measures “soon” to help the pioneer generation of Singaporeans who were unable to reap the full benefits of Singapore’s economic rise during their working life.

Specifically, the authorities will be looking to alleviate the healthcare costs in “all aspects” — including hospitalisation, outpatient and nursing home bills — for this “very special group”, said Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam yesterday in his speech at the National Day celebrations at Taman Jurong.

“We are all working very hard on this and soon we will be making some announcements,” he said.

Mr Tharman, who is also Finance Minister, noted this group of Singaporeans did not manage to accumulate much savings in their Central Provident Fund because their salaries were relatively low.

“Now when they retire, they find the cost of living is high ... The younger generation now has higher pay so we want to do more to help the older Singaporeans, especially with healthcare costs,” said Mr Tharman, adding that Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has made it “very clear” that the Government must do more to help older Singaporeans.

Mr Tharman said the pioneer generation had “worked very hard” to support and defend the country. “Now we will defend them as they retire and as they grow older,” he said. “We owe it to them and we want to do something special for this group of Singaporeans.”

Political watchers expect the National Day Rally on Aug 18 to be a possible platform for the announcements.

Tanjong Pagar GRC Member of Parliament (MP) Chia Shi-Lu, who sits on the Government Parliamentary Committee (GPC) for Health, shared that one of the things on the cards is a more streamlined process for older Singaporeans to receive assistance for healthcare costs.

He noted that Singaporeans in the pioneer generation are disadvantaged because the current healthcare financing framework — which is undergoing a review — was not in place during their economically active years.

To signal that this group deserves special recognition, Dr Chia added that the Ministry of Health is looking into greater differentiation between help with healthcare costs for the pioneer generation vis a vis other Singaporeans.

Nee Soon GRC MP Patrick Tay, who also sits on the Health GPC, agreed with the need to do more for this group. The escalating healthcare costs have been accentuated by a higher life expectancy and shrinking family sizes, which result in less support for the elderly, he said.

Citing the need to do more for two other groups of Singaporeans — children and workers — Mr Tharman reiterated the importance of providing opportunities for them to move up the socio-economic ladder. Children whose families are less well-off must be given more help, he said.

On workers, he said employers ought to improve jobs by investing in equipment and grow their businesses without having to hire more people.

He added that, over the next few years, the Government will put “a lot of emphasis” on ensuring every Singaporean can “move up the ladder in every job”.

“The Government will do more, employers must do more and every worker must also put in the effort to improve, learn more, do well on the job,” he said.

Speaking to reporters later, Mr Tharman urged Singaporeans to exercise “collective responsibility” and help those “who have less do well so that we can all progress”.

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