Consider retail bonds in govt borrowing plan

The Government plans to tap financial markets to help pay for infrastructural developments by statutory boards (Borrowing plan will help fund higher infrastructure spending; Feb 21).

In the past, statutory boards such as the Land Transport Authority issued retail bonds. This has been stopped for many years.

Ideally, the Government will ensure that a large part of the planned borrowings are made available to retail investors.

Interest rates offered by banks (and even the Singapore Savings Bond) are too low, compared to the inflation rate. Interest paid to bond holders are much higher. This will help many savers, especially retirees who are living on their savings.

As more people here enjoy greater longevity, many retirees will have to depend on their savings for more than 10 years. Such retail bonds will help to reduce the number of retirees seeking government assistance when their funds run out. Or at least, their funds will last a bit longer.

The issue of income and wealth inequalities is being raised by many, including the Government. Extending the bonds to retail investors is one of the ways to allow equal opportunity to people of different income and wealth bands.

No doubt, it will mean higher administrative costs for the bond issuers. But the long-term social benefits of helping small investors surely outweigh the costs. People do not seek government subsidies, only equal opportunities.

Ang Chiew Leng (Ms)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 26, 2018, with the headline 'Consider retail bonds in govt borrowing plan'. Print Edition | Subscribe