SINGAPORE - The Central Provident Fund (CPF) offers good returns, and the best evidence of this is the $500 million Singaporeans voluntarily put into their accounts last year, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said last night (Sept 4).
"They are not silly, they are not ignorant. They understand... I think they are wise," he said at a People's Action Party (PAP) rally in Defu. "So I think the CPF is taking good care of the old people."
He took time to lay out the returns CPF members can expect from their accounts.
The Special Account pays 5 per cent interest a year for the first $60,000, he pointed out.
Mr Lee told the crowd last night: "You go to DBS, cannot get that. You go to UOB, cannot get that."
And retirees over the age of 55 also have a Retirement Account that gives them 6 per cent interest a year for the first $30,000, he added.
"I think it's not bad, right? So why, when you go to opposition rallies, they never mention this?" he asked.
"Because if they mentioned this, nobody will vote for the opposition."
The CPF scheme came under attack last year, with critics calling for greater flexibility and transparency. Some were unhappy with the increase in the Minimum Sum.
Protest rallies were held at Hong Lim Park, during which speakers demanded that the Government return people their CPF savings.
A CPF Advisory Panel was set up last September to look into enhancing key aspects of the CPF system and providing additional options in retirement.
Last night, Mr Lee assured Singaporeans that the Government is making the CPF better. It will, for one thing, be more flexible.
Instead of depending on monthly payouts alone, CPF members will be able to take out part of their CPF savings in a lump sum when they turn 65. This applies to those who turn 55 from 2013 onwards.
Mr Lee said: "You don't take it out... well, you earn good interest. You need it desperately, you take it out. You have that flexibility.
"So I think that this is the way we want to service Singaporeans - provide for you and give you a choice."
Besides addressing the concerns of older Singaporeans, Mr Lee also spoke about opportunities for the young, especially in education.
To give them a head start, there are better childcare subsidies, more childcare places and better-trained pre-school teachers.
The PAP itself has made sure that the PAP Community Foundation - the party's charity arm, which has long been associated with kindergartens around the island - is being upgraded to better serve the young.
"We promised it, we've done it," said Mr Lee. "We said 'every school a good school' and yes, we've managed to make every school a good school... We say it, we will make it happen."
There are more university places and more universities, too, he added. And there will be opportunities still for people to upgrade even in the workforce.
"We are going to create more ways up, so that no matter where you are, what stage you are (at) in life, you will have a chance to do better for yourself," said Mr Lee.
"We will do it, for the future, for our kids, for Singapore."