FOR a budget that is supposed to address long-term challenges 'so that workers can enjoy higher incomes and every Singaporean family can aspire to move up', it is rather disconcerting that the longer-term issue of retirement adequacy and ultimately the welfare of the growing ageing population has not been adequately addressed.
The Silver Housing Bonus for those who downgrade to smaller Housing Board flats, and the larger grants under the Lease Buyback Scheme are stop-gap measures that fail to address the systemic issue of retirement inadequacy that will confront an increasing share and number of our growing population.
Studio apartments may be becoming more popular. However, it is imperative to ascertain whether this increased popularity is driven by choice or the necessity to downgrade in order to maintain minimum living standards.
The fact that only 433 households out of the total of more than 234,000 three-room HDB households have joined the Lease Buyback Scheme in the past three years may indicate heartlanders' lack of need or reluctance to monetise their property and the strong desire to bequeath them to family members. If so, the option to downgrade to a studio apartment may not be desirable for such families.
At the heart of ageing with dignity and grace is the ability of the Central Provident Fund system to provide adequately for retirement living. Instead of monetising assets in the golden years, why not focus on policies to reduce housing prices in working years, and increase CPF contributions and returns so that more CPF savings are available to enable seniors to live out their golden retirement years in familiar and more desirable housing environments?
The deficiencies of the current CPF and public housing schemes need urgent attention for the longer-term welfare of all Singaporeans.
The writer is an Associate Professor at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, at the National University of Singapore.