SINGAPORE - Born in 1959, Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam is part of the Merdeka Generation.
Like many at the time, he grew up in a modest family living in a rented flat. It was only in 1975 that his family bought their first property, a three-room flat.
Mr Shanmugam shared his humble upbringing to an audience of Merdeka Generation residents in Nee Soon as a tribute to those who worked hard during Singapore's formative years.
He spoke to about 500 Merdeka Generation Nee Soon residents who received their Merdeka Generation Package during an appreciation dinner at Chong Pang Community Club on Sunday (June 2).
Together with some 250 residents from Sembawang GRC, they formed the first batch of about 8,300 Singaporeans to receive their welcome folders that were distributed at community events across the island throughout the day.
Mr Shanmugam distributed the welcome folders to the 500 Nee Soon residents born in the 1950s.
He said that with the package, the government hopes to give assurance to the Merdeka Generation that their concerns are being recognised. "One of the key things people are looking for as you age is a sense of assurance, a sense of security. That is something the government has been focusing on for some time now as our population ages," he said.
"And it is not so much in the details but their concerns are being recognised, understood and are being dealt with. As long as the government has enough and its budget is in a healthy position, it can do this."
The package, which will be distributed to half a million people, includes a personalised Merdeka Generation card which qualifies the holder for outpatient care subsidies at general practitioner (GP) and dental clinics under the Community Health Assist Scheme (Chas) from Nov 1, regardless of income or the value of his home.
The folder will also contain a list of six Chas clinics nearest to the home address of the person receiving it. The list will include four GP clinics and two dental clinics.
The Merdeka Generation Package was announced earlier this year by Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat during his Budget speech and is aimed at offsetting healthcare costs that come with ageing.
It includes an annual $200 top-up to the Medisave accounts of eligible Singaporeans from 2019 to 2023. The first top-up will be automatically credited next month.
Singaporeans born between Jan 1, 1950, and Dec 31, 1959, and those who had attained citizenship by the end of 1996, are eligible for the package.
It is also open to Singaporeans who were born by Dec 31, 1949, and those who were born overseas by this date who became citizens by the end of 1996, if they did not receive the Pioneer Generation Package.
Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Social and Family Development and Education Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim, Ms Lee Bee Wah, Mr Kwek Hian Chuan Henry and Mr Louis Ng also gave out the packages to their Nee Soon residents.
Minister for Transport Khaw Boon Wan, who attended the Sembawang distribution and tribute event with the other Grassroots Advisers of Sembawang GRC Grassroots Organisations, called the Pioneer and Merdeka Generations "very special generations of Singaporeans".
"We work hard, times were hard, and we saw Singapore from third world to first world," he said.
"One key value is always do your best for the next generation, so that they will have a life even better than yours. And if every generation holds such a value, I think Singapore will be there forever, prosperous and peaceful."
Madam Patricia Tee, 64, a former construction worker who received her welcome package at Chong Pang Community Club said: "We cannot predict our health. So having this card means I can be more assured in case something happens in my old age."