Speech by Mrs Lina Chiam on Central Provident Fund (Amendment) Bill, 17/201 on 21st November 2011
Mr Speaker sir,
I support the spirit behind the Special Needs Savings Scheme, which this bill seeks to create, in that the Government is not leaving it to trust funds provided by private companies for the care of children with special needs.
However this scheme does not go far enough. It is a very small step, though in the right direction. It is not clear how this new scheme is very much different from the existing nomination procedures or the intestate succession laws, when a CPF account holder passes away. The Government should not retain a person’s CPF money in the inheritor’s CPF account in the first place. It should be paid out in cash to the recipients and nominees. Otherwise, as the withdrawal age goes up, the CPF funds will be locked up in the CPF account forever.
Mr Speaker, here I am compelled to cite one common criticism of the CPF – that the CPF scheme takes up a sizeable portion of the income of people with lower incomes, forcing them to consume less in the short term. For parents with special-needs children, this arrangement adds to their heavy financial burden.
So instead of disbursing CPF money to a nominated child with special needs only after the parent’s demise, would the Government not consider disbursing these funds earlier, when the parent is still alive? I hope, however, that the Government would not count this as additional source of income when evaluating Public Assistance, eligibility for rental flats, and means testing for health care.
For parents with insufficient or no CPF savings at all at upon their deaths, this Special Needs Savings Scheme would be of no benefit to their special-needs child. Would the Government not consider using revenue surpluses, such as from the Casino Tax, to top up the CPF accounts of these parents with insufficient CPF savings, when they pass away? I understand that the revenue collected last year from Betting Taxes, which the Casino Tax is reported under, amounted to some 2.1 billion dollars, or 4 to 5 per cent of the total operating revenue collected by the Government last year. Surely we can spare some of this money towards helping the less fortunate in our society?
Mr Speaker, let us not underestimate the financial burden faced by parents in such situations.