Monday 20 April 2015

Education, childcare accounts well used

But Govt's ActiveSG account to promote exercise seems least utilised
By Pearl Lee, The Straits Times, 18 Apr 2015

MOST Singaporeans make good use of funds in various accounts the Government has set up for them, especially those for education and childcare.

There are six accounts, ranging from one which helps students pay for enrichment programmes in schools to another that encourages people to get active.

The Child Development Account (CDA), for instance, has a 95 per cent take-up rate.

An initiative by the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF), it gives parents dollar-for-dollar matching from the Government whenever parents make a deposit for their child.

Parents can open for their children a CDA, which is used to pay for expenses such as their medical costs or childcare fees, from the time they are born until they turn 12 years old.

Ms Jane Ting, 47, whose two younger sons, Sing Siang and Kai Siang, aged six and 10, each have an account, said the initiative helps parents to save some money.

Her oldest son, Jin Siang, who is 12, was born before the CDA was implemented.

The Government has topped up the maximum of $6,000 for Kai Siang, but she still has some way to go to reach the full amount for Sing Siang.

"I intend to save to the maximum. It's better than putting the money in a bank as the Government is contributing," said Ms Ting, who runs a shop selling gaming accessories.

An MSF spokesman said that close to half of first- and second-born children with a CDA have already saved at least $6,000, which means they have received the maximum matching contribution from the Government.

The average amount the Government contributed for this group is about $4,000.

At the primary and secondary school levels, Edusave accounts, which help students to take part in school enrichment programmes such as camps, have a take-up rate of about 90 per cent, the Ministry of Education (MOE) said.

The Government makes regular top-ups to Edusave and CDA accounts.

Unused funds from both accounts will eventually go to the Post-Secondary Education Account (PSEA), which encourages Singaporeans to complete post-secondary education.

More than half of people aged 17 to 25 have used these funds, said MOE.

Many do so to pay for university course fees.

Sport Singapore's ActiveSG account appears to be the least utilised.

It offers $100 credit for use in gyms and swimming complexes, for instance, which can be used after registering for an account.

So far, about 715,000 people have signed up, about one in five of those who are eligible.

Among them, six in 10 have made at least one transaction, while 20 per cent have used up the free credits completely.

Nominated MP Ben Tan, an active sportsman, said he is not too concerned with the usage rate.

"Just because people are not using the $100 credit doesn't mean they are not exercising," he said.

He added that the most common exercise here is jogging, which is free.

Salesman Lim Jianli, 31, agreed.

"I play basketball with my friends a few times a week and we don't have to pay to use the court," he said.

"I may use the credits in future when I intend to work out at the gym."

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