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Pioneer perks and pains

First, I was pleasantly surprised today when I visited my GP — an ex-neighbour with a clinic in Bukit Batok — to consult about a suddenly super itchy throat and occasional coughing.

After the consultation and receiving three types of medication, I was told that no payment was needed as I hold a Pioneer Generation card. :)

Second, I was pleasantly surprised again at the Bishan Fairprice Finest outlet to be told that I would get a discount on my purchases if I had a Pioneer card. This was the Monday bonus for us Pioneers!

Well, I have and showed it with alacrity.

Only to be told: “And now your IC”.

Huh? Why an IC?

The cashier auntie deadpan: “to confirm you aren’t using someone else’s Pioneer card.”

I duly showed my IC but the pleasure that Mr Lim Swee Say hoped to give us Pioneers was destroyed in one go.

For heaven’s sake. It’s only a 3% discount!!

Would I, or anyone, be so desperate to get 66 cents off our bills (that’s my discount) as to borrow someone’s Pioneer card? And if someone elderly (but doesn’t belong to the Pioneer Generation) and so desperate would it kill Fairprice to let them have that discount just once or twice?

Today’s request reminded me of the days when I was asked for my bus pass to prove that I qualify for the Tuesday 2% elderly discount, even though I have a union member card.

As I don’t have a bus pass, I had to show my IC. There were even a couple of times at an outlet with unbending cashier aunties when I was refused a discount with my IC as the bus pass was the stipulated proof!

Thank goodness that ridiculous demand has long become history.

Hopefully our good Lim Swee Say will now mandate those who man cash machines at Fairprice be more flexible and not ask for our IC. If nothing else that is showing true respect for Pioneers and not start by implying we would be so cavalier with our Pioneer privilege from NTUC as to let others use our card.

Pleasure that G funding gives

Even though I can afford to buy my own lunch, it’s always a pleasure to be given a free lunch by anyone, so long as that someone isn’t an arch enemy or even worse.

Thus it gave me much pleasure to receive $190 worth of G funding for use on my mother — that amount paid 95% of the cost of having a senior staff nurse come to my home to train one of our two  helpers to look after mum, now that she’s bed ridden and completely incapable of looking after herself in every way.

This was arranged by the Ministry of Health’s Agency for Integrated Care.

In addition, AIC helped mum get a monthly $100, starting this month, because she’s unable to look after herself.

However, we don’t qualify for any other subsidy or help as our home has an annual value above $21K.

Strangely, though, she could have gotten more if we rented out our home and instead lived in rented premises.

Or if I was still working and earned just enough to be in the income category which enjoys G subsidies including Workfare and what have you. By working, it’s income that counts, not the annual value of the home.

All quite whacky and convoluted. But me not to reason why. I am not G.

Makes me wonder if it’s time to go back to work. Perhaps part-time at Fairprice where I keep seeing posters begging for full and part time cashiers and store assistants?

And perhaps falling into the Government’s “trap” of getting more elderly Singaporeans to rejoin the workforce?

Still, after some subsidy having come our way– though not all subsidies that I think my mum should be entitled to since she’s already 89 — I really shouldn’t look a gift horse in the mouth.

Neigh!! :roll:

Why ever not, Mr Khaw?

I refer to the enhanced Lease Buy Back Scheme for HDB owners that our dear Minister for National Development Khaw Boon Wan just announced in Parliament. So much flexibility… Yet one sticking point remains. I refer to the oral answer MND gave in reply to an MP’s question which to wit (and to woo?) asked: “For the Enhanced Lease Buyback Scheme, whether HDB will consider relaxing restrictions on (i) the sale and subletting of the flat; and (ii) the minimum occupation period.”

The answer is: The Lease Buyback Scheme (LBS) provides seniors who wish to continue staying in their home, an option to monetise their flat for additional retirement income. If they have spare bedrooms, they can also sublet them after taking up the LBS. Those who wish to move out and sell or sublet their whole flat can already do so without the LBS. We do not have plans to relax the minimum occupation period which is applied to the purchase of all HDB flats.”

I refer to the words I’ve put in bold. They miss the point entirely. If I were a senior with the good fortune to own an HDB flat and wish to monetise a part of the value via the LBS and further monetise the asset by letting out the whole flat, why can’t I? And say, if I were an HDB owning senior who also enjoys the privilege of owning a private property — a bonus accorded only to HDB owners — I will have the option of living in my private apartment, won’t I? So why can’t I rent out the whole of my HDB flat while taking a bite of the new LBS cherry? Even if I don’t own a private pad but want to rent out the whole of my HDB flat while I sleep in the common corridor or void deck, why cant I? I am only maximising the underlying value of my HDB asset without parting with it!! I shouldn’t be deprived of this option. In fact, I think I should be given a pinggat that I have found a way to hold on to my HDB cake and eat it, while watching my cash hoard grow :roll:

Why can’t government benefits be simple?

Asking this because my mother, a member of the Pioneer Generation, just got a letter from the director, healthcare finance division, Ministry of Health, informing her that the subsidy for PGs doesn’t apply to private patients using specialist outpatient clinics (SOC) at our public hospitals.

If mum wishes to enjoy the subsidy, the director said, then she should ask the specialist outpatient clinic she’s been using for help. She is also reminded once she switches to subsidised SOC, she won’t be able to choose her own doctor.

Then I just heard Dr Amy Khor, the MOH’s Senior Minister of State, suggesting on TV news that those who want to get subsidised SOC should go to their Polyclinic or their GP for the referral.

Hello, I thought. Why make things more complicated than they need be for elderly sick folks?

Why not just allow those in the Pioneer Generation who want to remain private patients at SOC get a subsidy too but capped at $28.50 — the same amount that they are allowed when they go to see their GP.

This way, it would save much time and hassle for all on both sides of the subsidy — those receiving it and those giving it.

I am sure those PG-ers who have been using private SOCs would welcome the subsidy — which isn’t a lot compared to what consultants and senior consultants at public hospitals already charge.

But it would be a very nice gesture and affirms that the nation really values the Pioneer Generation, whether they have made it or not!

Feel good expressions that are plain bad

The crash of an airplane is always a bad, sad event especially one that’s carrying a full load like MH17.

What makes this event even sadder than sad is the fact that it was shot down, with suspicions resting on the heads of the Ukrainian rebels backed by Russia.

No one onboard, as far as anyone knows, the ill-fated Boeing 777 had anything to do with the Russia-Ukraine squabbles. So it’s a random, pointless and baseless tragedy!

Making this shocking event especially brain-numbing shocking is the fact it’s Malaysia Airlines’ second air tragedy in just four months. :cry:

For me, who is linked to Malaysia by personal history, kinship, friendships and the sheer proximity of our countries, I feel as numbed as I would feel if MH17 were a close personal friend.

So, I was snappy with a VVIP Singaporean friend who Whatsapp me from Bangkok with this message: “Malaysia really tak boleh. This year two total wipeouts of planes with lots of passengers. How they cope with Isis?”

I replied: “Pse don’t blame Malaysia. MH370 still a total mystery. MH17 a matter of timing, Ukraine rebels etc. Just pray this doesn’t happen to SIA. As for Isis, just blame US n the Israelis.”

No further contact from him.

Guess I must have pissed him of.

Just as I was pissed off to read on the front page of The Straits Times of July 19, below the banner headline top story, one that was titled “Lucky couple, someone must have been watching over us…”

It’s about a Scottish couple who had been planning to fly on MH17 but switched to a later KLM flight because MH17 was full.

Mr Barry Sim and his wife Izzy, who heard about the tragedy on the way to the airport, spoke of the “sick feeling” they experienced on hearing the news. Mr Sim told the (UK) Telegraph: “You get this sick feeling in the pit of your stomach We started getting butterflies. Your heartbeat starts going.”

His wife added: “There must have been someone watching over us and saying ‘you must not get on that flight’. “Coming to the airport in the taxi I was just crying … I feel like I’ve been given a second chance.”

As a bystander, I was upset by the headline. I can imagine what those who lost friends, loved ones, even whole families, would feel.

If someone watched over the Sims so that they didn’t board the ill-fated flight, what did it mean for the 298 who perished? There were babies, grandmothers, even a nun. No supernatural forces were on their side? Surely not!

I am sure Mrs Sim hadn’t intended to convey what the headline made her appear to imply — or encourage those reading it to infer adverse meanings.

But the fact is, that was how it came across. At least to me.

Hence today I am glad on re-checking the online version of the ST July 19 issue, I found the Sims’ account carried a factual and neutral headline: Malaysia Airlines MH17: Scottish couple missed flight which was overbooked.

In recent years, the Internet has helped to proliferate feel-good aphorisms, taglines or sayings that are meant to uplift and convey “there but for the grace of you-know-who”…

I however never feel good to say “I used to complain about my tight-fitting shoes till I met someone with no feet.”

I prefer to feel good on meeting someone who has everything and realise that compared with the best I can still count myself lucky.

For in this world of unpredictability and constant change beyond our control, it is better to live by the Chinese saying 塞翁失馬焉知非福 (Saiweng Shima, Yanzhi Feifu)

Uncle Swee Say doesn’t get it re CPF?

It’s incredible but I must accept it as the awful truth for why else would Mr Lim Swee Say give this comment on the ongoing CPF controversy?

Here is what he said: “Instead of thinking about whether you can spend your savings in the CPF at the age of 55, I think we should think about how can we help our Singaporeans to continue to remain employed, to continue to earn a good living, continue to have good jobs, and at the same time to continue to contribute to the CPF because the more money they have in CPF, the longer they defer the use of the CPF — this will mean they will have more for retirement.”

Folks, I think the whole kuffle-fle re the CPF isn’t about staying on in the workforce after age 55 but how members could get out of the workforce with their CPF money to goyang kaki.

Of course those who are fretting that they don’t have enough for their minimum sum and yet want to empty their CPF kitty are living in a parallel universe.

But to tell them to carry on working so that they can both build up their CPF and simultaneously delay the time when they need to tap the CPF isn’t going to convert them to the Government’s view.

Instead best to tackle the root of the problem — which is the desire to withdraw the minimum sum and at the same time cry foul that they don’t have enough in their CPF to cover the minimum sum.

Uncle Swee Say should ask G to redesign the CPF scheme for the sake of unionists who call him boss, if no one else. Put the most important thing first — which must be the minimum sum needed to feed workers too old or too disinclined to work.

Why not ask G to put the cart firmly behind the horse, not before it?

Which is first thing first.

Make sure members in the full bloom of working life are putting away the projected minimum sum required to keep their body and soul together when they are like 10X reboiled tea leaves. :roll:

If that sum ain’t in their CPF account, then no-touch for housing, medical bills, education, what have you, geddit?

Better still, once that sum has been saved, channel it to buy an annuity for disbursement at the official retirement age.

Lagi better if G could sweeten all this by lending, interest free, each adult Singaporean starting work the projected minimum lumpsum that would accrue to his/her cohort at retirement to buy an annuity.

Annuities bought when young with disbursement not starting till decades later will surely be more valuable and pay out more than one bought at 55 and disbursed just 10 years later.

Of course G would retain an interest in each annuity till the advance or loan has been fully paid for by the CPF member. And the CPF member would have every incentive to clear that debt because then and only then would he/she be able to tap the continuing stream of savings to buy homes, pay medical bills and other things that are allowed in today’s more liberalised CPF system.

If Uncle Swee Say can swing the CPF redesign this way, it would be a win-win situation for those who run the CPF and those today demanding the end of the CPF.

What bugs me about our Government…

Unlike what the doyenne of PAP critics Catherine Lim claimed, I am one of millions of Singaporeans who trusts our Government, especially when it comes to my CPF.

This said, I have one bug bear.

The bug bear only came into my room in the last few years.

I had been considering moving to HDB in my sunset years, especially after I discovered that HDB flats as young as 3 years (!!!) could be bought in the resale market. These are SERS flats and they are in choice locations.

One of mum’s friends snapped up one in Tiong Baru when she was already 80! And she took the top floor of a high-high rise!

I visited and I was “sold”.

But like the careful person that I am, I looked to my left and right and then front and back and then pondered again.

Then wham! My option as a private property owner to buy HDB in the open market was taken away overnight. All in the interest of cooling our bubbly property market.

I might have accepted it as another of G’s policies to keep our good ship SG on even keel.

But what got — and still gets — my goat is that HDB home owners continue to enjoy the bonanza of being eligible to private property — whether to live or invest in — and continue to hold their HDB.

Why, I ask myself, especially if the HDB property owner is only a PR and not a citizen. :roll:

Where is the level playing field, between citizens with private property who want to acquire a HDB unit from the resale market and PRs owning resale HDB being allowed to buy private property?

Where is the level playing field between citizens and citizens, when on the one side are those like me — who have never benefited from the state’s subsidised housing — prevented from buying resale HDB and those who have had one or more bites of the hugely subsidised new direct HDB cherry and then are given the extra privilege to buy private, even as the Government is trying to douse the speculative sparks in the property market!

One way I can read this is the G’s way of closing the income and asset gap among Singaporeans! But since our really rich won’t contemplate HDB for love or money, it means those who are effectively held back are only the middle income who are truly squeezed by the falling value of their cash assets, the rising cost of living and their dwindling earning power which moves inversely with their rising age.

Thus if boy-oh Roy Ngerng and his looney gang had wanted some support, this would have been a better cause for them to adopt. At least where I am concerned.

Even then, I won’t have lent him one cent, let alone donate it, if it meant encouraging him to defame anyone, let alone the Prime Minister.

Meanwhile I reproduce a letter from the ST Forum Page which continues to express private property owners’ grief and grievance against the unfair treatment of better off Singaporeans. Resonates with me. Wholly!

THERE are four factors to be considered when discussing whether HDB flat owners who move to private property should be allowed to keep their old flats (“Let HDB landlords enjoy their rent”; Thursday).

First, one reason for banning private property owners from co-owning an HDB flat is the fear of driving up prices in the resale market that could become unaffordable for first-time home buyers.

Without the ban, affordability can be sustained only by channelling more public funds into building more new flats, rather than recycling the existing stock.

Second, residing in private property accords the owner the benefits of exclusivity, prestige and better facilities.

There is a price to be paid for these benefits, and not hoarding a public flat should be one of the costs.

The upgrader has already benefited from the first ownership of affordable housing in the form of an HDB flat that helped pave the way towards owning a private home.

The first-time home owner who goes straight into buying private property does not enjoy this benefit.

The argument that the rules penalise a flat owner for becoming wealthy is not convincing, as there is the option of not owning private property.

Third, there are already schemes allowing HDB owners to sublet their homes partially or in full.

A retiree can even rent out the whole flat after the mandatory five-year occupation period if he lives with his children.

It seems odd that a retiree would want to hoard an HDB flat to support his retirement when he could simply choose not to buy a private property.

Fourth, Singapore’s rental market is heavily leveraged on foreigners’ demand. Whenever the volume of foreign tenants declines, there will be many homes left unoccupied.

Unoccupied private homes are a poor investment. Unoccupied HDB flats point to public policy unwisely executed.

After all, HDB was founded on the basis of providing an affordable home, not providing an affordable investment.

Liew Eng Leng