Budget 2014: Seniors' perks ease strain on young

The Pioneer Generation Package will by funded with $8 billion from this year's Budget to support 450,000 pioneers for the rest of their lives. It means future Budgets will be able to focus on other challenges and needs. -- FILE PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG
The Pioneer Generation Package will by funded with $8 billion from this year's Budget to support 450,000 pioneers for the rest of their lives. It means future Budgets will be able to focus on other challenges and needs. -- FILE PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

They don't feel left out as measures to help the elderly will lessen younger Singaporeans' burden

This year's Budget is heavily focused on the elderly, but while some younger Singaporeans said they wished they had got more, many did not feel overly disappointed.

This is because the slew of measures for seniors will also ease the financial strain on the younger generation supporting them, they said.

Sales manager Muhammad Dzul Azhan Haji Sahban, 33, is one who welcomed the Budget, as his 65-year-old father will benefit from the Pioneer Generation Package and the extra parent relief.

An only child, Mr Dzul earns between $3,000 and $4,000 a month, and supports his retired parents, administrative assistant wife and a 10-month-old baby.

"I have to pay for the flat, household expenses and allowances for my parents... Every little bit of help counts, and now I don't have to worry too much about their health-care costs," he said.

But he was disappointed that there were no GST vouchers for groups of younger Singaporeans among the operationally ready national servicemen or single mothers.

The centrepiece of the Budget was the Pioneer Generation Package with its subsidies for outpatient care, Medisave top-ups and MediShield Life subsidies.

The package is for Singaporeans aged 65 and above this year, and who became citizens before 1987. But there was also help for seniors who did not qualify.

Those aged 55 and above will get a cash voucher to offset daily expenses this year, and Medisave top-ups for the next five years.

Marine Parade GRC MP Tin Pei Ling, who has many elderly people in her ward, said: "For younger workers who are taking care of elderly parents, the relief for their parents can turn out to be a relief for them in terms of easing their financial expenditure."

The Pioneer Generation Package will by funded with $8 billion from this year's Budget to support 450,000 pioneers for the rest of their lives. It means future Budgets will be able to focus on other challenges and needs.

It is a large sum for one group, but magazine writer Kenneth Wee, 27, said that he understands the need for it now.

"As a young worker, I have no worries that I'll be able to earn more to cope with rising costs. The older Singaporeans may not have that... financial security, so it's good that this is focusing on them," he said.

He added that it would be like "spoonfeeding" to keep expecting more subsidies from the Government when younger workers like himself are capable of improving themselves and their salaries.

It is for the same reason that IT analyst Daniel Chia, 30, "did not expect much" from this year's Budget for younger Singaporeans.

"I'm pretty optimistic about my current job prospects and am economically stable, so more help from the Government for older Singaporeans seems like a step in the right direction for me," he said.

Education Minister Heng Swee Keat also highlighted two important measures that will help the young from low- and middle-income families.

Students in polytechnics, ITE and universities, from as many as two-thirds of all Singaporean households, will be able to qualify for larger bursaries. And there will be more financial assistance for kindergartens through Kindergarten Fee Assistance Scheme, for all anchor operators and Ministry of Education kindergartens.

Holland-Bukit Timah GRC MP Liang Eng Hwa said that young Singaporeans will "benefit tremendously" from measures to restructure the economy.

"The young need to have a good future, so they too can generate surpluses for future generations," he said.

Still, not all could afford to be so far-sighted. Retail assistant Janice Lin, 29, said the Budget offered little direct financial support for low- to middle-income earners like herself, who are feeling the pinch of higher costs of living.

"Nothing is stable these days for sales workers like me as the economy has been very volatile. I was hoping we could get some subsidies to offset these day-to-day costs. The (extra CPF employer) contributions to Medisave are welcome, but they can't help me financially now," she said.

maryamm@sph.com.sg

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