Three hot issues discussed

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong speaking at a closed-door post-National Day Rally dialogue organised by the People's Association held on Oct 14, 2018.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong speaking at a closed-door post-National Day Rally dialogue organised by the People's Association held on Oct 14, 2018.PHOTO: MCI

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong took questions from grassroots leaders at a dialogue on Oct 14. Here are three topics he touched on.

COST OF LIVING

The Government will address specific pain points to help Singaporeans cope with the cost of living, PM Lee said.

"It is both a matter of reassuring people that their immediate concerns are being seen to, that the cost of living is being taken care of, that we have measures that are helping them, helping specific groups of people with their concerns," he said.

In the past two or three years, low-income households have, on average, seen their earnings rise faster than the cost of living, he noted.

But some households have not, he said. In such situations, the Government will do what it can to help them, through targeted schemes such as ComCare and Workfare, he added.

99-YEAR LEASE OF HDB FLATS

It is fair that HDB flats have zero value at the end of their 99-year leases, PM Lee said.

If someone buys a house with a 99-year lease when he gets married at 30 years old, and then retires 40 years later at 70, his house will still have 59 years of life left, he noted.

"That is enough for you to live in for free for the rest of your life, plus extra," he said.

The flat could then be handed to his children, who could either live in it or sell it, he added.

"At 99 years, it comes back to the Government. You have got 99 years of use out of it. The Government gets back the land, recycle and redevelop for somebody else. I think that is fair."

It would not be fair if, at the end of 99 years, the Government takes back the flat and refunds its value to the occupant. "Then what about the years when you have been living in the house? You must pay rent, right?" he said.

PM Lee likened it to the 20-year lease of hawker stalls.

"They got the stall for 20 years, during which they can use it, they can operate it, they can sublet it," he said.

"At the end of 20 years... it is the Government's again."

PACKAGES FOR THE FUTURE ELDERLY

It will be up to a future government to decide whether there will be financial programmes, such as the Pioneer Generation and Merdeka Generation packages, for successive generations of Singaporeans, PM Lee said.

Any such plans will depend first on whether the government of the day can afford it.

 
 
 

He also noted that later generations of Singaporeans have received more help from the Government during their working lives.

"Because the younger ones, below the Merdeka Generation, your CPF (Central Provident Fund) is much more, your incomes are higher, so your provisions for your retirement, your healthcare, are also more." He said those schemes should carry the main bulk of looking after people in their old age.

The Merdeka Generation Package, which will give Singaporeans born in the 1950s financial support for their healthcare, will be "a good package", although its total amount has not been settled yet, PM Lee said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 23, 2018, with the headline 'Three hot issues discussed'. Print Edition | Subscribe