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  • mellaniehewlitt
    TODAY 30 JUNE 2005 OLD AGE A BLESSING? NOT IN S PORE ... THERE is nothing more comforting than to be reminded that you were once young. That once, you moved to
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 29, 2005
      30 JUNE 2005
      THERE is nothing more comforting than to be reminded that you were once

      That once, you moved to the rhythm of music effortlessly; that once, you
      were in love and could still feel what it is to be in love when you
      listened to romantic melodies.

      It is also empowering to find that one can be 69 or 70 and enjoy what one
      enjoyed twenty, thirty or even forty years ago.

      I realised this the night of the Engelbert Humperdinck concert.

      It was one of those rare times I felt I was not the oldest in a crowd. I
      saw familiar faces who were there to recall good old times that seemed to
      be disappearing quickly.

      We were all 20 once again.

      Engelbert Humperdinck reminded us - if we needed reminding at all - that
      life is not over yet for those of us in our 60s and 70s. Even if we may
      look a bit worse for wear and our faculties compromise, or if we elapse
      into "senior moments" now and then.

      There he was on stage, a bit thicker in the middle, a bit broader in the
      jowls, a bit stiffer in the joints. But with the same magic that had
      captured audiences the world over for almost 40 years.

      During the concert, for some reason I can't recall, Engelbert Humperdinck
      mentioned social security and asked if we got pensions.

      There was this very telling silence. Reality of life for the old put a
      damper on the evening.

      Life is difficult for older people in Singapore.

      The Aware-Tsao Foundation report published recently concluded that "older
      women are in a particularly vulnerable position in their later life
      because of the lack of income over their lifetime, an old age income
      security system … the lack of an adequate and inclusive health care
      financing mechanism that covers those not in formal employment, and a
      family situation that can no longer sustain its care giving and providing
      role for its older relatives."

      The report adds that the responsibility to support the older population
      goes beyond the immediate family.

      The Government, the private sector and communities all have a role to play
      to ensure that the older population feels valued and able to contribute.

      For instance, the estate that I live in is undergoing upgrading. It is
      costing many millions of public funds, no doubt.

      Has it made the buildings wheelchair-friendly? No. In this supposedly
      family-friendly society, is any consideration given to young mothers with

      Sometimes, I wonder if one arm of government knows the policies being
      promoted by the other arms.

      I move between despair and exaltation when I think of my own old age. The
      exaltation comes from imagining new visions, new states of personal
      realisation emerging at this stage of my life.

      But then, public policies in healthcare, housing, education and labour -
      despite new initiatives being announced recently - seriously lag behind
      the needs of a growing elderly population.

      Health costs keep rising. There are few support systems. Nor is there
      sufficient financial security - even with the CPF scheme intended,
      ironically, for this purpose.

      So, what will nourish the visions of ageing men and women like myself, who
      want to live independent lives?

      To say that taking care of the aged is the responsibility of the family is
      to deny the state's responsibility to provide an environment that makes
      life easier for an ageing population.

      It is also a denial of the reality of life for those Singaporean families
      which struggle to make ends meet.

      One 84-year-old aunt I know has been praying for death for 10 years. Old
      age has made her dependent on two daughters who have, she says, the
      unhappy burden of looking after her.

      Another 96-year-old aunt, hearty and mobile, has been shunted from son to
      son for 10 years.

      Old age is not a blessing. And even those of us who can afford to attend a
      concert, can escape from the worries of ageing only for a moment.

      The writer, a social activist and teacher, is a former president of Aware
      and SCWO.

      --- MellanieHewlitt@y... wrote----------------------------------------

      You can view it in the context of the entire discussion by going to:

      Elderly more anxious about future
      Latest HDB survey also shows half of those polled had no retirement
      Tuesday • June 21, 2005
      Loh Chee Kong

      SINGAPORE'S growing elderly population is feeling less well-off and
      less optimistic about their future, according to the latest survey by
      the Housing and Development Board (HDB).

      Carried out in 2003, the Sample Household Survey covered 7,300
      households across all HDB towns and estates. In the survey, which is
      conducted every five years, "household" refers to a group of
      persons who may or may not be related, living together in a unit.

      The proportion of "elderly households" — or households headed by
      someone who is 65 years and above — in HDB estates has increased from
      9.2 per cent in 1998 to 10.7 per cent in 2003, with more elderly
      living in older towns and estates like Bukit Merah, Queenstown and

      More elderly persons — from 14.7 per cent in 1998 to 21.1 per cent in
      the latest study — were also living alone.

      While they were generally satisfied with their life, they were also
      less optimistic about the near future. Only 15.2 per cent felt that
      their lives would be better five years down the road, compared
      to 29.7 per cent in the survey done five years before.

      Among the various aspects of life they had to rate, they were least
      satisfied with their health, their household income, medical services
      and the cost of living — all factors that they also rated as
      being important to them.

      What was worrying, though, is that despite their apparent concerns
      about financial matters, half of the elderly surveyed had not planned
      for their retirement. Many in this group said that they were
      jobless and were more concerned with day-to-day living.

      Significantly, while nine in 10 households across Singapore
      classified themselves as middle class, elderly households seem to
      have a poorer perception of themselves. In fact, one in five elderly
      households saw themselves in the lower class of society.

      Commenting on the sense of pessimism among his peers from various
      income groups, 72-year-old Dr P N Avabhani, who lives in a 5-room HDB
      flat with his mother and wife, said that they might have grown
      more pessimistic because of the rising cost of living and longer life

      "Many retirees' lifestyles are based on their income before
      retirement. In reality, there is always room for pessimism but one
      has to adjust to circumstances," he said.

      Dr Yap Mui Teng, a senior research fellow at the Institute of Policy
      Studies, who specialises in poverty alleviation policies and issues
      relating to the elderly, said that this pessimism "may be a
      reflection of the situation of family members on whom the current
      generation of Singaporean elderly is highly dependent".

      "The economic downturn may affect them indirectly through their
      family members, even if the elderly themselves are not in the labour
      market," she said.

      "If this is true, then the economic situation — particularly
      regarding employment — of the working population supporting the
      elderly needs to be worked on."

      You can view it in the context of the entire discussion by going to:


      Retirement blues
      S'poreans conscious of need to save, but end up with little for their
      golden years: Survey
      February 25, 2005

      COMPARED with other industrialised countries' citizens, Singaporeans
      want to retire the earliest and are most active in saving up for the
      future — but still end up with one of the lowest retirement income
      levels, according to a recent worldwide survey on retirement.

      AXA Group, a major player in the field of financial protection, asked
      9,200 working and retired people in 15 industrialised and newly-
      industrialised nations last year for their views on retirement.

      Countries surveyed included Australia, Canada, USA, Spain, Italy and
      Asian representatives Hong Kong and Japan.

      In Singapore, 296 working adults and 307 retirees, aged between 25
      and 75 years old, were interviewed between October and November.

      The study found that, on average, the ideal retirement age for
      Singaporeans was 54 — the youngest desired retirement age among the
      15 countries. Those in Hong Kong, Canada and Australia opted for
      retirement at the age of 55, while Japanese wanted to wait till they
      were 61.

      A successful retirement, said AXA Singapore's executive vice-
      president Lim Meng Tat, is "one in which you can continue to sustain
      the lifestyle that you enjoyed pre-retirement".

      Hence he said it was "crucial" that Singaporeans understand their
      financial commitments to allow them to fund their future needs.

      He added that the discrepancy between the effort put into saving by
      Singaporeans and the amount of money that Singaporeans actually had
      after their retirement was worrying.

      Of those surveyed, Singaporeans seemed the most eager to prepare for
      their post-retirement financial arrangements, with nine in 10
      contributing to an insurance policy or a pension fund with their
      employer, such as the through the Central Provident Fund. Four in
      five contribute to savings plans, a proportion that outstrips that of
      other countries.

      Yet the average retired Singaporean has among the lowest average
      monthly retirement income among the 15 countries, at $1,692. Canada
      ranked first with $4,216, with Hong Kong last at $1,177.

      This average monthly income is marginally above the average household
      expenditure of $1,592.

      The study, however, did not take into account factors such as
      different costs of living in these 15 countries.

      Mr Lim also said it was startling to find that four in five working
      Singaporeans did not know what their income level would be at
      retirement, while 57 per cent of retired Singaporeans did not know
      their average monthly income.

      "Most people assume that they have sufficient retirement income but
      are unable to quantify the amounts. Hence they are unprepared for the
      financial liabilities," said Mr Lim.

      "People need to be educated about their financial



      Mellanie Hewlitt
      Singapore Review
      20 Dec 2004

      Can't Afford to Retire? That Means No Babies !!!

      I was reading the article "Can you AFFORD to retire?" in the 18 Dec 2004 issue of the Straits Times and recalled that only just recently the government was renewing efforts to encourage Singaporeans to have more children.

      Once again the severe myopia permeating the ranks of Singapore's million dollar cabinet ministers is baffling.

      The issue of affordability of retirement and dwindling babies are related. If you cannot afford to retire then its also highly unlikely that you can afford to have babies.

      Solve the earlier problem and you would be half way there in getting those much wanted babies. In fact this is nothing new and has been part of the evolutionary process for thousands of years. Many species will delay having off springs during periods of extended famine and draught and one does not need to be paid a million dollars to see that harsh reality.

      Yet, contrary to thousands of years of evolutionary progress/precedent, this
      government is telling you to have kids even when you cannot save enough to
      look after yourself during your retirement years.

      Singaporeans by and large are a hardworking, industrious, lot who live within
      their means and are unquestioningly obedient to their overlords. In-spite of
      deteriorating work conditions many still try hard to save enough for their
      golden years.

      But its not that easy when decades of stingy fiscal and monetary policies have
      sapped the average person's disposable income and retirement reserves. Only in
      Singapore do you have the unholy situation where state reserves actually
      blossom to grotesque portions even whilst personal savings dwindle and
      personal incomes deteriorate. We end up with the state directly profiteering
      from the very citizens it is supposed to look after!

      To make matters worse, land prices have been artificially inflated for many
      decades resulting in escalating costs of living.

      Hang on, lets back track here. Was this not the same government who was
      declaring to the world that Singapore has attained Swiss standards of living?
      This government has asserted that;

      a) Singaporean workers are better paid then their counterparts in the US, UK
      and Australia;

      b) That Singapore also has very competitive cost of living?

      c) And Singaporeans also have one of the highest savings rates in the world?

      How much of the above assertions are mere propaganda and how much is actual
      fact? If you put a) b) and c) together it implies that the average Singaporean
      should not be in the dire straits they are in now.

      But the undeniable fact remains that Singapore today is no where near being
      the Switzerland of the east. You may refer to the attached powerpoint file for
      a full comparison between Singapore and Switzerland. The census figures show
      many similiarities between the two maturing economies but the following
      figures are glaring;

      a) Singapore's unemployment rate of 4.8% is still higher than Switzerland's

      b) The Singapore Government's reserves of Foreign Exchange and Gold is approx
      USD110.8 bn, much higher then Switzerland's USD69.6 bn.

      c) Singapore's physical geographic area is only 692.7 km sq which is only
      1.67% of Switzerland's 41,290 km sq

      d) Singapore's population is at 4.3 mio as compared to Switzerland's 7.45 mio

      e) Taking into consideration (b) and (c) above, Singapore's Military
      Expenditure is USD4.47 bn p.a. (4.9% of GDP) as compared with Switzerland's
      USD2.5 bn p.a. (1% of GDP).

      There are massive indicative signs that confirm the postulate that a very
      bloated state reserve is maintained at the direct expense of the personal well
      being of private citizens. Military Expenditure is just one glaring area where
      the Singapore Government spends more then 500% more to defend a land area less
      then 2% the physical size of Switzerland.

      We posed these issues on Delphiforums as discussion threads and have
      incorporated feedback from various forum participants. More crucial
      differences between Singapore and other developed countries was highlighted by
      one forumer:

      "Unlike Singapore, Switzerland, US and UK have the following;

      A) UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS. This is state funded. A Swiss who is unemployed for
      the first year can still draw 80% of his original salary from the State in the
      1st year. Of cause he has to show he has actively been looking for work;

      B) From (A) there is some certainty of income and security. The state actually
      looks after the aged and the unemployed. In sillipore its the citizens who
      have to financially support the government, its GLCs and their mistakes.

      C) There is CPF in Switzerland but the funds are managed in a clear and
      transparent manner. There is no such shit where GLCs can dip their hands into
      state reserves;

      D) The Swiss and US and UK have a less bloated cabinet then Singapore. They do
      not have to pay ministers USD1.1 mio a year to spin them propaganda;

      E) Switzerland also spends less then 1/2 what Singapore spends (USD2.4bn as
      opposed to USD4.2bn) on defence and this is to defend a land area and
      population more then 7 times the size of Singapore;

      F) Switzerland already have carved a niche in the following established global
      industries: a) Private Banking b) Insurance and c) Chemicals/Health care and
      d) Precision tooling and watches. What industry has our million dollar
      ministers carved? The Biopolis? Pls don't make my toes laugh."

      (You may view the full discussion thread at:

      Are Singaporeans living with the mistakes of previous attempts by the
      government at "social engineering" and playing God?

      According to the latest estimates from the Straits Times article, if you
      decide to retire at the age of say 60 and have a life expectancy of 80 years,
      you would need at least SGD1 to 2 million in cold hard cash. Needless to say
      this is beyond the means of most Singaporeans who earn an average mean/median
      monthly household income of between SGD3,000 to SGD4,000/-.

      That means that most Singaporevereans will face very bleak retirement years
      with a substantive reduction in quality of life and standard of living. As one
      forumer sums up:
      "unless you have cold hard cash of at least SGD1-2mio at retirement, this is
      what our twilight years will look like for most of us :

      a) Downgrade from private transport to public transport. Imagine at age 60
      running for bus or MRT;

      b) Downgrade to 2-1 room HDB flat (also affectionately known by the locals as
      "Pigeon Holes") assuming this is still affordable in 20-30 years time;

      c) No holidays overseas and no clubs;

      d) No entertainment. Entertainment is watching grass grow and a once a yr
      visit from a PAP ministar.

      e) No friends, not mobile, no credit card, no gym etc.

      f) Food is bread & water, no restaurants no nothing.

      g) And of cause NO KIDS and other long term liabilities we can't afford "

      (You may view the full discussion thread at:

      Singaporeans will be living hand to mouth in what are supposedly their golden
      years. After spending all of their adult lifes working 12 hour work-days, they
      will have barely enough to live out their sunset years at subsistence level.
      Some may even face the undignified prospect of flipping burgers at Mac
      Donald's to make ends meet.

      And this is a situation the government is well aware of. Said MP Lily Neo:
      "People are living longer, life expectancy is about 80. So if you retire at
      62, you still have a long way to maintain yourself. The majority of people
      don't have enough savings."

      According to Dr Neo; "Medical costs will go up as new technologies and
      medicines are developed. As you grow older, you'll have more medical needs
      that will add to your expenses."

      If this is the case, would lt not be morally and socially irresponsible for a
      government to encourage its citizens to assume obligations and
      responsibilities (of having children) that are beyond their financial

      Why are they doing it? That's because Singapore's only real growth engine is
      its population. And the government needs to see a growing mass population to
      fuel its economic growth. This is strangely reminiscient of the scene in The
      Matrix where humanity is reduced to the plight of a duracell battery.

      Below was the sinister scenario potrayed by another forumer:

      "Things have changed alot in singapore and not all the changes are positive.
      The following is simple logic. We start on the premise (given by Lee Kuan Yew
      himself) that Singapore has no natural resources.

      The only resource it had 30-40 yrs back was man-power. So the govt could only
      sell one thing and one thing only.....manpower to attract foreign investments.
      Fast forward 3-4 decades later and little has changed. We still have only
      manpower to selll and what's worse is the fact that other countries are fast
      catching up in that area.

      The only thing the PAP can think of is to keep the price of its only product
      cheap. Make this place as attractive as possible for the MNCs but that also
      means exploiting the labour market to its fullest. That means squeezing every
      last drop of blood from workers (run those duracell batteries dry!!!)

      This is a situation the PAP is quite happy with but there is one big kink.
      They never foresaw the obvious eventuality that their pro MNC anti-labour
      policies has made life so difficult for average workers that it has resulted
      in a mass exodus of talent from the island and also a massive drop in birth
      rates. In effect they are killing their only scarce resource.

      The idiots were so oblivious to this development that 10-15 yrs back they even
      had a stop at 2 policy and also the infamous Graduate Mother scheme policy.
      The message to the masses; "If you do not have a degree please do not
      contanminate the pure stock with inferior genes." Only graduates were fit to
      have kids. And to this day this unholy idea has survived as we see the
      distinction between SDU and SDS.

      I can say with certainty that singaporeans (the intelligent ones) who plan
      their future will have worked out the numbers for themselves and they know
      they do not have enough to retire comfortably especially if they have kids. So
      you will not see a reversal in the plumetting birth rates.

      The PAP also realises it so they now look to foreign imports to make up the
      shortfall. But who wants to move to a Disneyland with the death penalty where
      you work 12 hour days in a sterile pressure cooker society where your every
      move is monitored and controlled? Only the desperate cases.

      If you had money and talent Singapore would be the last place you would move
      to. Sure you may set-up a bucket shop office here to take advantage of the
      cheap labour and even work here. But to live here personally, retire and call
      this place your home? No Way. That's why most of the mega rich businessmen
      still live even in Indonesia, China and even Thailand and of cause
      Switzerland. All of these countries have a higher concentration of high
      networth people then Singapore (and that includes Indonesia, Thailand and
      China, supposedly lagging behind singapore).

      So my final point is that there is no future for this island unless there is a
      real change of policies (and government)."

      Fortunately most levelheaded Singaporeans are able to see beyond the short
      term incentives offered by Singapore's ruling party and many have questioned
      the feasibility of raising a family on this expensive island in the sun.

      Said another long time forumer:
      " Singapore's mass media have always afforded us a very enthusiastic picture
      of our future, especially via reporting of key messages from our leaders.

      Is the picture really that beautiful? Civil servants getting big bonuses! Was
      there a hidden agendum somewhere? Does that really assure us of the bright
      horizon ahead? I really have my doubts.

      Can Singapore really establish itself as a key hub? Even if it succeeds, how
      long can that be? Just looking at Thailand and Malaysia, and I get a funny
      feeling down my spine. sigh......"

      Another forumer was less kind when he wrote:
      "million dollar ministers and million dollar permanent secretaries naturally
      can't see that "relatedness"' [between affordability of retirement and making
      babies] you mentioned.

      Why? Because you see in Singapore these policy makers can only understand an
      issue in its proper perspective only when they are personally affected. or
      afflicted as in the case of illnesses. [How can ministers who earn SGD1.6 mio
      a year understand and relate to the plight of a family who has to survive on a
      monthly household income of SGD3,000 a month?]

      If a system of compensation of paying Ministers currently exist , based upon
      benchmarking against the top 5 earners of the community regardless of ""how""
      they earn their money( remember rogue trader Chen of CAO was the 4th top
      earner in the list) then what can we expect from them? logical thinking? Nah!

      And really why produce another generation of media and state socialised
      unthinking unanalytical slaves for THEM and their pre-assigned elite status

      It looks like for now Singapore's battery producing factories (oops I mean
      baby making families) will be closed for the duration and the Matrix (oops I
      mean the Singapore Government) will have to look off-shore for other sources
      of raw material for the reproduction process. Needless to say these
      alternatives are already being explored.

      The editor wishes to express her thanks to the participants in Delphiforums
      who have contributed substantively by providing feedback and view points for
      this article.

      Non-Members of Delphiforums may enter the discussion forums as "Guests"
      (You may view the full discussion thread at:

      Attachment: 34k (application/vnd.ms-powerpoint) Singapore Switzerland.ppt
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