Call to do more to equip Malays with money skills

Others in online discussion suggest help for parents to set up education trust funds

Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs Yaacob Ibrahim took part in an online discussion organised by Mendaki and feedback unit Reach.
Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs Yaacob Ibrahim took part in an online discussion organised by Mendaki and feedback unit Reach.

The importance of financial literacy and the need for more to be done to equip the Malay/Muslim community with these skills were raised in a lively post-National Day Rally online discussion on Wednesday night.

It was sparked when netizen Suhaimi Salleh asked whether more money could be withdrawn from the Central Provident Fund (CPF) account at age 55.

Currently, CPF members who turn 55 can withdraw their CPF savings after setting aside the Minimum Sum - which is now $155,000, but will go up to $161,000 for those who turn 55 in July next year. Those who cannot meet the Minimum Sum can withdraw only $5,000.

Minister in-charge of Muslim Affairs Yaacob Ibrahim, who was at the online discussion, explained the withdrawal options to Mr Suhaimi who, in turn, replied that a sum of $5,000 would not be enough to perform the haj. Responding, Dr Yaacob said: "But CPF is meant for retirement. For the haj, (it's) useful to start planning early."

Speaking to reporters after the session, which attracted about 100 participants, he added that even with the CPF scheme in place, personal responsibility is crucial when it comes to managing finances.

Netizens who took part in the dialogue, organised by self-help group Mendaki and government feedback unit Reach, had suggested that there could be more courses or campaigns to reach out and teach those in the community how to manage their finances.

Parliamentary Secretary for Health and Transport Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim and Mendaki chief executive officer Tuminah Sapawi also took part.

Madam Tuminah, who agreed that financial literacy is a critical issue, said that the self-help group does run such courses.

And there are national programmes, too, such as financial education programme MoneySense, the national financial literacy programme launched in 2003.

Other participants suggested that parents be informed and taught how to set up education trust funds to help their children graduate without then having to carry the burden of paying back hefty loans.

The discussion also found general agreement among participants that the Malay/Muslim community has progressed over the years, even though there were some who wondered if it was "lagging behind" other communities in Singapore.

Dr Yaacob said that there were schemes by the Government, Mendaki and other Malay/Muslim organisations to help people get ahead in life. And outreach programmes to get information about these schemes to people in the community who need them most need to be continued.

"The broad statistics for educational achievement are clear - the trend is upwards. The question is the gradient. I still believe we can do better," Dr Yaacob said.

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