S'porean denied pension in NZ for not using CPF first

Man who is also NZ citizen had said his sons would face repercussions over NS if he is traced

A 66-year-old Singaporean failed in his bid to get senior citizen pension benefits in New Zealand after a tribunal found he had not first used his Central Provident Fund (CPF) money, as advised.

The Social Security Appeal Authority was not convinced by his concerns of being traced by the Singapore authorities if he applied to withdraw his CPF money, as there could be "significant repercussions" for his two grown-up sons, who were liable for national service (NS).

"(He) was completely unable to explain what action the Singapore authorities might be able to take against him or his sons if they became aware of his residence in New Zealand," said the Social Security Appeal Authority of New Zealand in decision grounds released last month.

Superannuation benefits of about NZ$600 (S$570) are payable fortnightly to New Zealand citizens or permanent residents over 65 who have lived in the country for at least 10 years since they turned 20, five of which must be since they turned 50 years old, according to its website.

But the payout is modified according to conditions such as deductions from income earned elsewhere or abroad.

According to the decision grounds, the Singapore citizen, who is also a New Zealand citizen, was granted the benefit when he turned 65 in November 2014 but he disclosed in his application that he had lived in Singapore for 50 years.

He had worked in various jobs in Singapore before emigrating to New Zealand in 2000 with his wife and two sons, then aged eight and 10.

The Auckland-based man, who was granted citizenship in 2004, was told by New Zealand's Ministry of Social Development to apply to Singapore's CPF Board to withdraw funds from there.

He objected and failed to comply with the July 2015 deadline issued by the New Zealand ministry. A month later, his New Zealand Superannuation was suspended.

He initially claimed it was discriminatory to require people from countries that paid pensions, such as Singapore, to be required to apply for those pensions, which were then deducted from their entitlement to New Zealand Superannuation.

He pursued the case before the two-member appeal authority, arguing among other things that his two sons, now aged 25 and 23 years and having promising careers, could be affected if his whereabouts were known to the Singapore authorities through his CPF application.

The man, who was not named, suggested his sons might be forced to return to Singapore to do national service and be prosecuted as enlistment defaulters. Under Singapore laws, eligible persons who fail to register for national service may be fined up to $10,000 or jailed up to three years or both.

But the tribunal pointed out that the alleged offences under the Singapore Enlistment Act were not recognised as extraditable offences under New Zealand law and prosecution was, therefore, "remote".

"We are not satisfied that there is any real danger or disadvantage to either the appellant or his two sons if the appellant's whereabouts were to become known to the Singapore Government," wrote the Wellington-based appeal authority.

It added that the man, having worked variously in Singapore as an aircraft mechanic, hotel cashier and elsewhere had maintained CPF deposits from which he could apply to withdraw funds, since he was already past 62 years old, the minimum age for CPF withdrawal.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 15, 2016, with the headline S'porean denied pension in NZ for not using CPF first. Subscribe