Wednesday, 20 February 2019

Merdeka Generation Package unveiled at Singapore Budget 2019; benefits to be available from 1 July 2019

Merdeka Generation Package: What you need to know
By Nicole Chang, Channel NewsAsia, 18 Feb 2019

Healthcare subsidies, money for healthy activities and public transport – these are some of the benefits eligible older Singaporeans can look forward to as part of the Merdeka Generation Package.

First announced during Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s National Day Rally last year, the package is meant to express appreciation for the Merdeka Generation and help them with healthcare costs as well as to keep active and healthy.

Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat on Monday (Feb 18) shared more details about this in his Budget 2019 speech.

WHO’S ELIGIBLE?


- Those born in the 1950s

- Those born in 1949 or earlier but who missed out on the Pioneer Generation Package

All beneficiaries must have obtained their citizenship by 1996.





HOW MUCH WILL IT COST?

The package is estimated to cost more than S$8 billion – in current dollars - over recipients’ lifetimes. A total of S$6.1 billion will be set aside for a new Merdeka Generation Fund. With interest accumulated over time, this will cover the full projected costs of the package, said the Finance Minister in his speech.





WHEN WILL THIS BE ROLLED OUT?


Here’s what’s on offer:

1. S$100 TOP-UP TO PASSION SILVER CARDS

Seniors will get a one-time S$100 top-up to their PAssion Silver cards. This can be used to pay for activities and facilities at community clubs, entry to public swimming pools and public transport, among other things.

2. MEDISAVE TOP-UPS

Starting this year, Merdeka Generation seniors will get a MediSave top-up of S$200 every year for five years until 2023, to help them save more for healthcare needs.




3. ADDITIONAL OUTPATIENT CARE SUBSIDIES, FOR LIFE

Special Community Health Assist Scheme (CHAS) subsidies will be available for package recipients, geared towards common illnesses, chronic conditions and dental procedures. All Merdeka Generation seniors will receive these regardless of income, including those without a CHAS card at the moment.

They will also get an additional 25 per cent off subsidised bills at polyclinics and public specialist outpatient clinics.



4. ADDITIONAL MEDISHIELD LIFE PREMIUM SUBSIDIES

Also for life.

These subsidies will start from 5 per cent of MediShield Life premiums and increase to 10 per cent after seniors hit the age of 75.

This translates to a discount of between S$31.50 and S$918, depending on the premium amount.

5. ANOTHER “PARTICIPATION INCENTIVE” TO JOIN CARESHIELD LIFE

Seniors who join CareShield Life will get an extra S$1,500 (when the scheme becomes available for existing cohorts in 2021).

This is on top of a previously announced S$2,500 sum, meaning that all Merdeka Generation seniors who join the scheme will end up getting S$4,000 of participation incentives.
















Merdeka Generation to start getting benefits from July 2019
Majority of perks to be rolled out in two tranches, with second one in Nov
By Rei Kurohi, The Straits Times, 7 Mar 2019

The bulk of benefits under the Merdeka Generation Package will be rolled out in two tranches, in July and November this year, Senior Minister of State for Health Amy Khor announced yesterday.

From July, an estimated 500,000 Singaporeans who were born in the 1950s will get the first $200 top-up to their Medisave accounts. They will get this $200 top-up every year until 2023.

Additional MediShield Life premium subsidies will also take effect, starting from 5 per cent of their annual premiums and increasing to 10 per cent after they turn 75.

Although system changes to automatically apply the additional subsidies will be ready only towards the end of the year, the subsidies will be backdated to July 1, Dr Khor told Parliament during the debate on the Health Ministry's budget.


Those whose policy renewal dates fall between July 1 and Oct 31 will first pay the full premiums, and get the extra subsidies as a refund.

The second tranche of benefits to kick in on Nov 1 includes more subsidies for outpatient care: An additional 25 per cent off subsidised bills at polyclinics and public specialist outpatient clinics.

Help for the Merdeka Generation was among a series of measures announced to make healthcare more affordable for Singaporeans.

Other steps include allowing all citizens with chronic illnesses to tap the Community Health Assist Scheme (CHAS) for subsidies from Nov 1. A new CHAS Green tier will be introduced to enable better-off Singaporeans to do this.

Meanwhile, all Secondary 1 girls in national schools will be offered free vaccination from next month to protect them against cervical cancer.

Addressing MPs before the new measures were outlined yesterday, Health Minister Gan Kim Yong noted healthcare spending almost doubled from $11 billion in 2010 to $21 billion in 2016. He cautioned: "It is unsustainable for us to continue increasing our national healthcare expenditure at this current rate."

He proposed healthier lifestyles and changing the way care was delivered to stem the rising bills.



Meanwhile, Merdeka Generation seniors can also get a $100 top-up to their PAssion Silver cards from July. They have until the end of 2020 to redeem the credits, which do not expire.

Broad details of the Merdeka package were announced by Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat in his address on the Budget, which set aside $6.1 billion that eligible seniors will tap over a lifetime.

Merdeka Generation cardholders will also get subsidies at CHAS general practitioner and dental clinics from Nov 1 of up to $23.50 a visit for common illnesses, up to $520 a year for complex conditions, and between $16 and $261.50 per dental procedure. Eligible seniors will get annual health screenings under the Screen for Life scheme at just $2.

The last benefit to kick in will be when long-term care insurance scheme CareShield Life is available for existing cohorts in 2021. An additional $1,500 incentive will be extended to Merdeka Generation seniors who sign up, on top of the $2,500 previously announced.

The total incentive of $4,000, which will be available only until 2023, will offset their annual premiums for 10 years, Dr Khor noted.



By next month, Merdeka Generation members will get letters on the package, added Dr Khor, who co-chairs a task force with Senior Minister of State Sim Ann that seeks to ensure seniors know about the package and how they can tap it.















BUDGET 2019: Honouring the Merdeka Generation







Medisave top-up, CHAS subsidies for Merdeka Generation
Most of $6.1 billion set aside for package to ease healthcare costs of nearly 500,000 Singaporeans
By Linette Lai, Political Correspondent, The Straits Times, 19 Feb 2019

A total of $6.1 billion will be set aside for the Merdeka Generation Package, the bulk of which will go towards easing the burden of healthcare costs for nearly 500,000 Singaporeans.

Announcing details of the much-talked-about package yesterday, Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat called it a "gesture of our nation's gratitude" for those in that generation, who were born between Jan 1, 1950, and Dec 31, 1959.

"It will provide them better peace of mind over future healthcare costs, while helping them to stay active and healthy," he said.

Starting this year, those in the Merdeka Generation will receive a $200 Medisave top-up every year until 2023.

They will also get higher subsidies under the Community Health Assist Scheme (CHAS) and an extra 25 per cent discount on their bills at polyclinics and public specialist outpatient clinics.

On top of that, they will get either 5 per cent or 10 per cent off their MediShield Life premiums, as well as an extra "participation incentive" of $1,500 if they choose to join the national disability insurance scheme CareShield Life.

And to support this group's active lifestyles, the Government will give them a one-off $100 top-up to their PAssion Silver cards. This money can be used to pay for public transport, entry to public swimming pools and activities at community clubs, among other things.

Mr Heng estimated that the package will cost more than $8 billion, in current dollars, over the Merdeka Generation beneficiaries' lifetimes.

The $6.1 billion set aside during this year's Budget will, with interest accumulated over time, cover the package's full projected costs, he said.



The oldest people in the Merdeka Generation are now 69 years old, and they will be able to enjoy the benefits of the package for many years, Mr Heng said.

He added that the finance and health ministries took this into account when sizing the budget for these benefits.

"This is a significant commitment by the Government," Mr Heng said. "It is important that the Government of the day continues to monitor the patterns and cost of healthcare utilisation, and life expectancy over the next 30 years or more, so that the Government is able to meet this commitment."

The Merdeka Generation Package comes five years after $8 billion was set aside during Budget 2014 for the Pioneer Generation Package.



For those in the Merdeka Generation, Chas subsidies for common ailments, chronic conditions and dental procedures will be higher than what lower-income blue Chas card holders get.

They will be able to get these subsidies regardless of income, even if they do not have a Chas card today.

They will also receive an extra 5 per cent off their annual MediShield Life premiums, which will go up to 10 per cent after they turn 75.

And the new $1,500 bonus for joining CareShield Life means that they will get a total of $4,000 if they sign up for the insurance scheme, since the Health Ministry had previously announced a similar $2,500 sign-up bonus for people born before 1960.

Mr Heng said this money will cover a "significant proportion" of their premiums, adding that he hopes this will encourage more people to join the scheme.



Those who missed out on the Merdeka Generation and Pioneer Generation packages will also get extra help, he said.

Singaporeans aged 50 years and above this year, and who are not eligible for either package, will get an extra Medisave top-up of $100 a year for the next five years.

Those who were born in the 1950s and who obtained citizenship by 1996 will be eligible for the Merdeka Generation Package.

Those born in 1949 and earlier will also get the package if they missed out on the Pioneer Generation Package, as long as they obtained citizenship by 1996.

People who are eligible will be notified by April and start getting their Merdeka Generation cards from June. More details will be shared during the debate on the Health Ministry's spending plans.























Merdeka package more generous than expected
By Salma Khalik, Senior Health Correspondent, The Straits Times, 19 Feb 2019

The Merdeka Generation (MG) Package for Singaporeans born in the 1950s has turned out to be more generous than anticipated.

All seniors from this generation will get a $100 top-up to their PAssion Silver cards as well as an additional $1,500 if they opt in to CareShield Life when it is open to them from 2021.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong had said that the MG Package would be less generous than the Pioneer Generation (PG) Package.

This is only fair as the PG was around in the early days of nationhood and would have lower savings than the younger MG, and, hence, requires more help.

The MG is getting somewhat similar benefits but at a lower rate. The MG card provides subsidies at Community Health Assist Scheme (Chas) clinics that sit somewhere between what the PG gets and what a blue Chas card gives.

The MG gets an additional 25 per cent off medicine and services at public clinics.



The MG will also get top-ups of $200 a year in the Medisave accounts, but only for five years. This is fair as the MG will live longer and hence collect benefits for many more years than the PG.

Those in the MG will also get 5 per cent to 10 per cent subsidies for their MediShield Life premiums. Again, much lower than that for the PG, but those in the MG would have more in their Medisave to pay for this. All in the MG will get these benefits, with those who get means-tested help continuing to receive it.

What they will not be getting, though, is the $100 a month for life should they become disabled.

That is because those in the MG, unlike those in the PG, were young enough to join ElderShield when it was launched. Instead, they are being offered an additional $1,500 to encourage them to switch from ElderShield to CareShield Life.

This came as a very pleasant surprise as those in the MG already get the "participation" bonus of $2,500 announced earlier.

Now those who join CareShield Life, which pays $600 a month for life should they become disabled, will get a total of $4,000 off the premiums they will have to pay over a 10-year period.

Being part of the MG, this could tilt the scales in deciding whether I opt in for CareShield Life.



















 




BUDGET 2019: Honouring the Merdeka Generation

Special needs teacher grateful for healthcare benefits
By Cara Wong, The Straits Times, 19 Feb 2019

Despite having worked for four decades as a special education teacher, Ms Barbara D'Cotta, 60, had not felt until recently that her work had helped build a nation.

"But the advertisements on the Merdeka Generation got me thinking, and when I looked around at many of my friends, I realised that they were actually pioneers in their own field," she said.

She is glad about the Merdeka Generation Package. "It is very thoughtful of the Government to look into the needs of a generation like mine... Many of us did not go for higher education because of family needs or the lack of opportunities,"said Ms D'Cotta.

She could not pursue higher education when she wanted to as she had to start work as a special needs teacher at age 19 to support herself and her mother.

She went on to get a bachelor's degree in special education.

Ms D'Cotta, who is now studying for a master's degree, was hailed by Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat as "an excellent example of lifelong learning and giving".

She is determined to continue contributing to the community and mentor other teachers.

The healthcare subsidies and Medisave top-ups in the package would make up for the 10-year shortfall in her CPF savings when she stopped working to care for her two children, she said with a laugh. "It'll certainly come in handy now that we're all edging into our 60s!"











Merdeka Generation Package: Children find some relief as parents receive cash benefits, subsidies
By Cynthia Choo, TODAY, 19 Feb 2019

Once every week, 67-year-old Yap Nyuk Yin attends a modelling class at the Teck Ghee Community Club to learn how to catwalk, dance and pose for pictures with her friends.

Madam Yap forks out about S$40 every three months for the course but soon, she would be able to pay for the lessons using her PAssion Silver Concession Card issued by the People’s Association, because all seniors born in the 1950s and classified under the “Merdeka Generation” will be receiving a S$100 top-up to their cards this year.

This benefit is among the five key goodies in the Merdeka Generation Package announced by Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat on Monday (Feb 18).

The others include yearly top-ups of S$200 into their Medisave accounts under the Central Provident Fund (CPF) until 2023, higher subsidies under the Community Health Assist Scheme (CHAS) for common illness, chronic conditions and dental procedures, and an extra 25 per cent discount on their bills at polyclinics and specialist outpatient clinics, on top of prevailing subsidies.



Mdm Yap said that these subsidies and discounts will be greatly beneficial for her because she has osteoporosis and she taps her husband’s Medisave account to foot some of her bills at Tan Tock Seng Hospital.

“Sometimes my bill can go up to S$700 for one appointment, because of certain injections and medications,” Mdm Yap said in Mandarin.

Now with the S$200, I might not need to use my husband’s account. Even if I do, the amount I pay will be less.”

Mdm Yap and her husband, Mr Khoo Wee Nam, 67, who are both retirees, said that the Medisave top-ups and the enhanced Chas subsidies “will go some way” in easing their healthcare costs in the future. 

Mr Khoo said in Mandarin: “We are both very healthy now, but with more money in our Medisave account, definitely it will be beneficial for us should anything happen in the future.”

However, Mr Khoo noted that if they were to be stricken with a “very serious” medical condition, “the S$200 might not be enough”. 

TAKES A BIT OF LOAD OFF THE CHILDREN

Their children, Mdm Eileen Khoo, 38 and her husband, Mr Wong Hung Shane, 41, said that more healthcare subsidies for seniors will help to lessen the burden on caregivers.

Mr Wong, who works in development and planning in the horticulture attractions industry, said: “For this year’s Budget… the Government has given quite a fair bit to the older generation and it goes a long way for us because we also help (our parents with their) finances.

“Overall, it helps not just the elderly, but the family members who support them, too.”

As parents themselves, Mr Wong said that while this year’s Budget had limited benefits to them, the rebates for the Service and Conservancy Charges (S&CC) that homeowners pay and top-ups to the CPF Edusave accounts that are used for children’s education expenses were announcements that stood out for them.

Like Mr Wong, Mdm Khoo, who is a part-time administrator in the interior design industry, said that the S&CC rebates will help somewhat in bringing down household expenses, which can be close to S$6,000 a month for them.

Mr Wong said: “With four kids, every dollar counts. While we don’t spend much, we are basically more or less a single-income family, so every saving you have, it goes towards the kids.”

Their seven-year old daughter — the oldest among four children — will be entitled to a S$150 top-up in her Edusave account.

“The Edusave top-up of S$150 is a sizeable amount,” Mdm Khoo noted.

“(While) Edusave is money that is locked up and not something that you can take out and use immediately, at least we know (this extra sum) can be used to pay for whatever activities or expenses incurred in school.”

She and her husband said that the income tax rebate announced in this year’s Budget will not apply to them because they can claim for the parent tax relief. 



SOMETHING TO CHEW ON

Mdm Khoo’s parents were hoping for increased dental subsidies in support of seniors’ healthcare needs, but that did not come.

While subsidies under Chas cover dental procedures and aids such as dentures, crowning and implants, the scheme provides between S$11 and S$256.50 of subsidy for every procedure, depending on what is administered and the subsidy tier for the patient.

Mr Khoo said: “Good teeth are important for good overall health. Many seniors don’t have teeth to chew and because of that, they cannot eat well and keep healthy.”

Mdm Yap agreed: “If there are more dental subsidies, maybe all the aunties will be pretty.”

She added that it was “heartening” the Government had kept in mind the “Merdeka Generation seniors”.

“When we heard about the Pioneer Generation Package (launched in 2014), we felt a little left out because we also had a part to play in building this nation,” she said. “But at least now, there are some benefits for us.”

















Many welcome Merdeka package help to defray healthcare costs
But some who have chronic conditions worry that benefits won't be sufficient
By Shabana Begum, Joy Pang Minle and Adrian Lim, Political Correspondent, The Straits Times, 20 Feb 2019

While she was not eligible previously, Mrs Kwan Sook Kun, who turns 60 in October, will soon benefit from the Community Health Assist Scheme (CHAS).

With Chas, the housewife can enjoy subsidised rates for medical and dental care at participating general practice and dental clinics.

"I will be able to save quite a bit on healthcare expenses, such as on my twice-a-year visit to the dentist," she said.

"I don't have any major health issues currently, but age is catching up with me."

Mrs Kwan had not been eligible for Chas as her household's monthly income per person exceeded the cap of $1,800.

But this will change with the Merdeka Generation Package, which covers Singaporeans born in the 1950s, and provides them with enhanced Chas subsidies regardless of income.

Details of the package, which also includes Medisave top-ups and additional MediShield Life premium subsidies, were announced on Monday by Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat in his Budget statement.

Mr Heng called the $6.1 billion Merdeka package a "gesture of our nation's gratitude" to the nearly 500,000 Singaporeans that would provide them with greater peace of mind over future healthcare costs.

Mr Roland Soh, 63, a client experience officer at a travel agency, said the Chas subsidies and $200 Medisave annual top-ups until 2023 provide him with some assurance that his healthcare needs will be supported after he retires and no longer receives company medical benefits.

But some were concerned that the benefits under the Merdeka Generation Package would not be enough to defray the medical costs for chronic conditions.



Mrs Radha Bai Narayanan, 67, said the Medisave top-up of $200 barely covers a trip to the outpatient specialist clinic.

"Since I have hypertension, I need to go for a check-up twice a year. The $200 will be used up for consultation fees and medication and, on top of that, I need to pay for blood tests and other procedures," said the senior administrative assistant.

Subsidised patients, however, will find their bills getting smaller, in addition to the top-ups, as the Merdeka Generation Package will also provide an additional 25 per cent off their bills at polyclinics and public specialist outpatient clinics.

Technician Ahmad Shah, 61, who has diabetes, anticipates that his quarterly visits to the doctor will be less expensive overall.



Besides healthcare benefits, the Merdeka package also gives a one-time $100 top-up for the PAssion Silver card, which can be used for activities at the community clubs and transport, among others.

Ms Helen Lim, 65, a childcare teacher, said: "I take public transport to work every day, so I will be able to save some of my salary with the $100."

Meanwhile, as part of a separate Bicentennial Bonus, 1.4 million lower-income Singaporeans will receive up to $300 through a GST Voucher cash payout. Working Singaporeans will also get a 50 per cent personal income tax rebate, capped at $200.

Housewife Ng Lay Nah, 55, said the $300 will help pay for necessities such as groceries. "The income tax rebate will be beneficial too. As my husband is the sole breadwinner, every little bit that we can save counts," she noted.

Under the Bicentennial Bonus, older eligible Singaporeans with lower Central Provident Fund balances can also get CPF top-ups of between $300 and $1,000.


Madam Roslina Ahmat, a part-time kindergarten teacher, said however that she would have preferred cash in hand. "Money for retirement is important, but I need the money now also to pay for housing," noted the 56-year-old.

Housewife Karen Chua, 42, whose two children are in secondary school, said the $150 Edusave top-up would go towards paying for school outings, loan of lockers and annual camps. She said the children use about $100 each of their Edusave money every year, supplemented by cash payments of between $70 and $80.

The $150 top-up will last only 1½ years, said Mrs Chua, who hoped for more support to cover the rest of their secondary school years.

Mr Panneer Selvam, people advisory services partner at Ernst & Young Solutions, said: "As anticipated, this year's Budget was filled with a generous dose of healthcare benefits for all Singaporeans. In particular, the Merdeka Generation can have peace of mind for their long-term care support, which also covers additional subsidies for outpatient care."

Women's advocacy group Aware welcomed the key measures, but said the Budget was lacking in urgency and vision to tackle Singapore's ageing needs.

"Benefits were restricted to one generation, and were mostly one-off. We would have liked to see a more comprehensive package for individuals entering their silver years," said Aware.

The Singapore Democratic Party criticised the Budget for not addressing the high cost of living, unaffordable public housing and "an outmoded education system that does not prepare our children for the future".












Merdeka Generation Package helps with healthcare costs, but also encourages seniors to stay active: Indranee Rajah
By Rahimah Rashith, The Straits Times, 23 Feb 2019

While the government will continue to help defray healthcare costs for the elderly, the Budget is also focused on helping seniors stay active, said Second Minister for Finance and Education Indranee Rajah, pointing to activity centres and the Community Networks for Seniors as efforts to help older folk lead healthy lifestyles.

"When we talk about ageing and support for ageing, there are different parts. One part is the healthcare costs, and this year's Budget has quite a bit on that," she said at the opening of voluntary welfare organisation Montfort Care's elder-friendly gym at its senior activity centre in Marine Parade. Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong, who is MP for Marine Parade GRC, also attended the opening.

Ms Indranee said: "We've got the Merdeka Generation Package, Chas (Community Health Assist Scheme) and a few other things. The corollary to that is... you must make sure people stay healthy."

Getting seniors to lead more active lifestyles is one of the five pillars of the $6.1 billion Merdeka Generation Package, for those born between Jan 1, 1950, and Dec 31, 1959.

Those eligible will get a one-time $100 top-up to their PAssion Silver Card which can be used to pay for activities and facilities at community clubs and on public transport, among others. Other benefits include a Medisave top-up of $200 a year for five years and additional subsidies for outpatient care.



Ms Indranee cited Montfort Care's senior activity centre as a way for older people to stay active, noting that the facility is a "community network which allows seniors who live in their area to drop in, participate in the activities".

"The key thing behind that is, firstly, have facilities for seniors to come to. Two, activities for them. And three, to be able to enable them to lead healthy lifestyles. This is really for the group that is retired... Many of them would be seniors who live alone," she said, adding that volunteerism is another way to stay active, and government agencies can play a helping hand to get seniors involved.

Ms Indranee said that while the Budget has "a monetary component designed to encourage the Merdeka Generation to go out and be active, when it comes to volunteerism, it should be something that comes from the heart".

Former art teacher Helen Ong, a 69-year-old volunteer at GoodLife! Senior Activity Centre, said volunteering gives her a sense of purpose: "I use my skills to teach arts and crafts to the seniors here. It helps keep me occupied and gives them something to do."
















Look at Government's total social spending beyond Merdeka Generation Package: Chan Chun Sing
Instead of universal welfare, he says, Govt has opted for targeted mode to help most vulnerable
By Lim Min Zhang, The Sunday Times, 24 Feb 2019

Look at the Government's total social spending each year, rather than the amount spent on packages such as that for the Merdeka Generation, Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing said yesterday.

And while some have called for a universal welfare scheme, Mr Chan said the Government has opted for a targeted approach that helps society's most vulnerable.

He was speaking at a public Budget feedback session where he was responding to a commentary by sociologist Teo You Yenn published in The Straits Times last Friday.

At the session held at the National Press Centre near Clarke Quay involving about 100 members of the public, Mr Chan answered questions on Budget announcements, ranging from whether the Merdeka Generation Package was sustainable to why there was a need to reduce dependence on S Pass foreign workers.

The Merdeka Generation Package, for people born in the 1950s, is expected to cost the Government more than $8 billion, with $6.1 billion set aside for the package during this year's Budget.

About 500,000 Singaporeans will receive benefits such as Medisave top-ups and additional subsidies for outpatient care for life.



In her commentary last Friday, Associate Professor Teo called for the introduction of a set of welfare principles so that all future cohorts of Singaporeans may enjoy "peace of mind and a sense of security".

"Introducing one-off, cohort-based rewards is, arguably, not a principled, sustainable, or solidarity-enhancing way to protect people in retirement," wrote Prof Teo, who is head of sociology at the Nanyang Technological University.

But Mr Chan said the Government provides "structural support" to the people, and that base, in terms of social spending, is more than 40 per cent of the budget every year in areas such as education and healthcare.

He said the Merdeka package, unveiled in last Monday's Budget speech, was the "icing on top of the cake" to help the most vulnerable.

"And it's also an expression of our values that whenever we have some extra resources, we care for those who have contributed to Singapore the most, those who are most in need," he said. "By sharing it equally, actually, we don't give as much help as we would like to those who need it the most."



On why there is not a simpler, universal scheme - instead of one that involves means testing - he said an across-the-board policy would not be fair as it could apply to all, regardless of income.

He acknowledged that means testing has implications, such as people comparing the amount of subsidies they receive.

"Of course, we agree that everyone should have peace of mind, that's one of the aims of the Government. But it should be done in a more targeted manner, rather than across the board."

The three-hour feedback session, conducted in Mandarin, was organised by radio station 96.3 Hao FM and Reach, the Government's feedback and engagement arm.

Mr Sam Tan, who is Minister of State for Social and Family Development and Foreign Affairs, and Reach chairman, was also present.

Participants discussed how they would spend a hypothetical $10 million sum for the country, in five areas such as security, social spending and savings.

They also had a question-and-answer session with the ministers.



Mr Chan also made the case for the need to lower the cap on the number of S Pass workers companies can hire for the next two years - from 15 per cent now to 13 per cent from Jan 1 next year, and to 10 per cent from Jan 1, 2021. These workers are mid-skilled foreigners earning at least $2,300 a month.

He explained that Singaporeans do not typically do the jobs that Work Permit holders do, adding that Employment Pass professionals make up the minority of foreign workers here, and S Pass holders compete the most with middle-class Singaporeans.

"If we don't control the growth of S Pass workers, then the ones to bear the brunt first are middle-class Singaporeans," he said.

Earlier yesterday, Senior Minister of State for Defence and Foreign Affairs Maliki Osman hosted a separate feedback session for Malay residents in East Coast GRC and Fengshan. At the annual session at Siglap Community Centre, participants discussed Budget announcements such as the Bicentennial Bonus.















Volunteers to spread message on Merdeka Generation benefits
Ambassadors to visit community spaces and their workplaces to explain package to them
By Cara Wong, The Straits Times, 25 Mar 2019

Seniors can soon find out more about the Merdeka Generation Package from Silver Generation Ambassadors at their workplaces or nearby community spaces such as hawker centres.

This new outreach approach complements the current method of home visits by ambassadors, as there is a need to adopt new methods to better engage with Merdeka Generation members, Senior Minister of State for Health Amy Khor said yesterday.

Unlike those in the Pioneer Generation, the Merdeka Generation members, born in the 1950s, are likely to be more well-educated, in better health, and hence more active in the community, she said.

"What the Silver Generation Office (SGO) is doing is to bring engagement sessions down to workplaces where many of the Merdeka Generation are still working, as well as to community nodes which the Merdeka Generation are likely to frequent," said Dr Khor.

A study had shown that 61 per cent of those aged between 60 and 64 were still working.

While the percentage dropped to 41 per cent for those aged between 65 and 69 who were still working, it was still higher than the proportion of Pioneer Generation members who worked, which stood at 19 per cent, said Dr Khor.

Pioneer Generation members are those born before 1950, and who attained citizenship before 1987.



Dr Khor was speaking on the sidelines of a workplace engagement session by the SGO at ComfortDelGro's office in Sin Ming Drive.

The transport company currently has more than 10,000 drivers or relief drivers who were born between 1950 and 1959.

"Working with ComfortDelGro to have these group briefings at the workplace makes it easier and more convenient for Merdeka Generation drivers," said Dr Khor.

At the event yesterday, volunteers hosted a group briefing as well as one-on-one clinic sessions, where they explained the package to taxi drivers.

Under the Merdeka Generation Package, an estimated 500,000 eligible seniors will enjoy annual Medisave top-ups of $200 from this year until 2023, and will pay less at polyclinics, public specialist outpatient clinics or clinics under the Community Health Assist Scheme.

Taxi driver Haniff Mahbob, 67, said he felt the sessions were insightful as the brochures and talks gave a clear idea of the benefits that he could enjoy.

"They explained it in a way that is easy to understand," he said, adding that he looked forward to receiving the annual Medisave top-ups.

These workplace engagement sessions are expected to run from now until the end of next year, said Dr Khor, noting that the SGO has lined up more than 50 such sessions with various organisations such as Keppel Offshore & Marine.

Engagement sessions, including those at community places such as hawker centres and faith-based organisations, will be ramped up from next month.

Dr Khor added: "Let me assure the Merdeka Generation that we will handhold them to help them understand... how they can benefit from it (the package)."



















Gardens by the Bay launches more public spaces, free entry for Pioneer and Merdeka generations once a month from June 2019 for a year

By Tiffany Fumiko Tay, The Straits Times, 15 Apr 2019

Visitors to Gardens by the Bay now have more attractions to check out, with the launch of a new area that houses a floral exhibit and cafe, as well as community spaces that will host a weekend market.


Bayfront Plaza, a 5,000 sq m space located next to Bayfront MRT station, was launched yesterday as part of efforts to expand the Gardens' non-ticketed spaces and line-up of events and programmes for locals.


For a year-long period from June, members of the Pioneer and Merdeka generations, comprising Singaporeans who are now in their 60s and 70s or older, will enjoy free admission to the Flower Dome on the second Tuesday of every month.




More free events are in store this year, including a Toy Story-inspired light and sound show in June and performances such as a National Day weekend concert in August.


Floral Fantasy, a 1,500 sq m ticketed attraction, features more than 3,000 plants across four garden landscapes, as well as a 4D multi-sensory ride called Flight of the Dragonfly.


A 2,000 sq m space that includes indoor events space Bayfront Pavilion will be made available rent-free for events by community organisations, as part of efforts to keep the Gardens inclusive, National Development Minister Lawrence Wong said at the launch.




The plaza sits on the site previously occupied by the Future Of Us exhibition that was part of SG50 celebrations in 2015, and the lattice structure has been integrated into the area's design.


Kicking off on Friday will be a weekend market featuring 30 stalls, a third of which will be run by social enterprises.


A public green space for both seniors and the young called Active Garden will also be ready by early next year, said Mr Wong.


More will be done to ensure Singaporeans have access to the Gardens, which has received more than 50 million visitors since it opened in 2012.


President Halimah Yacob will be the patron of Gardens by the Bay's community outreach initiative Gift of the Gardens, which provides free admission to the conservatories for vulnerable and lower-income groups.




About 90,000 Singaporeans have benefited from this programme, which will now be expanded to the Pioneer and Merdeka generations, said Mr Wong.


Gardens by the Bay chief executive Felix Loh said visitorship has grown by about 1.5 million every year, with movies such as Crazy Rich Asians helping to cement its status as a world-class attraction.


"But, unfortunately, a lot of people still associate Gardens by the Bay with our Supertrees and the two domes alone," he told reporters on the sidelines of the event.


While many of the main activities are concentrated in those areas, there is much more to see in the Gardens, added Mr Loh, who noted that 95 per cent of its 54ha in the main Bay South area does not require a ticket for entry.


On the addition of community spaces to Bayfront Plaza, he noted that about 70 per cent of visitors to the Gardens arrive via the nearby Bayfront MRT station.



There will also be activities and programmes to draw more Singaporeans, who made up about half of the 12 million visitors last year.

Residents enjoy discounted pricing to ticketed attractions at Gardens by the Bay, which also plans to pull in the crowd at night.


For example, the Floral Fantasy garden will be lit up, and operating hours may be extended from 9pm to 10pm if there is sufficient visitorship in the evenings, said Mr Loh.


"At the end of the day, this is the people's garden... We want to make sure this is not just a place that only the wealthy or privileged can visit," he added.











Merdeka Generation to get FairPrice discounts from July 2019
It is 3% off their groceries on Wednesdays; Pioneers' 3% discount is extended by a year
By Ng Huiwen, The Straits Times, 18 Jun 2019

Senior citizens from the Merdeka Generation, like those from the Pioneer Generation, can start enjoying discounts on their purchases at FairPrice outlets next month.

Merdeka Generation seniors will get 3 per cent off their groceries every Wednesday at more than 140 FairPrice stores across Singapore from July 1, the supermarket chain said yesterday. Pioneer Generation seniors will also have their existing 3 per cent discount benefit extended by a year. They will enjoy the discount twice a week, on Monday and Wednesday.

NTUC FairPrice chief executive officer Seah Kian Peng said: "This additional benefit to Merdeka Generation members is a simple gesture by FairPrice in appreciation for our seniors, for their contribution in developing Singapore as a vibrant nation with a cohesive community.

"We have also extended the Pioneer Generation Discount scheme for another year and consolidated the benefits so that both discounts may be enjoyed on Wednesdays and it makes it easier for our customers to remember.

"Beyond helping seniors to save more on daily essentials, these efforts also aim to encourage the community as a whole to honour and show their appreciation for our seniors," he added.

FairPrice is Singapore's largest retailer, with more than 200 outlets islandwide.

The Merdeka Generation Package, announced at this year's Budget, aims to encourage seniors to stay active. It also provides greater assurance with healthcare costs.

Singaporeans born in the 1950s and those who became citizens by 1996 are eligible for it.

It is also extended to citizens born earlier, and those who became citizens by 1996 but did not get the Pioneer Generation Package.

The Pioneer Generation Package is for Singaporeans born before the 1950s and who became citizens by 1986.

Last year, Pioneer Generation seniors enjoyed more than $4.45 million in savings at FairPrice.

Shoppers under the Seniors' Discount Scheme saved more than $2.45 million. FairPrice estimates that these two discount schemes plus the Merdeka Generation discounts will cost it over $9.8 million over the next 12 months.



Shoppers should present their Merdeka Generation or Pioneer Generation cards at the cashier counters of FairPrice stores.

Those who opt for self-checkout counters should select the Merdeka Generation or Pioneer Generation discount option on the machines. The discounts apply up to $200 worth of purchases per transaction each day.

From July 1, senior citizens will also be able to pay for purchases using their contactless ez-link stored value cards, the FairPrice CEO said.

These include the PAssion Silver Cards and PAssion Silver Concession Cards. Merdeka Generation seniors will also get a one-time $100 top-up for their PAssion Silver Card from the Government.



























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