Tuesday, 4 June 2019

Merdeka Generation helped make Singapore First World: PM Lee Hsien Loong

8,300 members of Merdeka Generation receive welcome folders at community events
They helped author large part of Singapore story, PM Lee says at appreciation ceremony
By Rei Kurohi, The Straits Times, 3 Jun 2019

From weathering economic downturns to building up a newly independent country, Singaporeans from the Merdeka Generation helped write a large part of the Singapore story, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said yesterday.

At an appreciation ceremony at the Institute of Technical Education (ITE) College Central, where Merdeka Generation Package welcome folders were given out to 300 Singaporeans born in the 1950s, PM Lee, who is himself part of the Merdeka Generation, said: "We grew up in the early years of independence.

"We travelled with Singapore from Third World to First. We helped build this nation and make Singapore a successful little red dot."

PM Lee, who was born in February 1952, said the path was not always straight and level.

"We weathered several economic crises, and workers experienced dislocation and uncertainty as we transformed the economy and upgraded the workforce," he added.

In total, about 8,300 Singaporeans received their welcome folders yesterday at community events held around the island.

The package includes top-ups to the Medisave accounts of those who are eligible, as well as outpatient subsidies at Community Health Assist Scheme (CHAS) clinics, among other benefits.

Mr Jamil Mohamed Yusoff, who received his welcome folder at ITE College Central, recalled what life was like in the early years.

He was 28 in 1978 and a year into his marriage, with a new baby as well, when he was told he was to be retrenched. "I was at a loss. My mind went blank," he said.

Oil prices had spiked, pushing Singapore and the world into recession. The knock-on effect hit Mr Jamil's job as a machine operator at Times Printers, where he had been working for 10 years. But he and his wife persevered, and Mr Jamil, now 69, found other jobs. Today, he is retired and has three adult children and four grandchildren.

He said he has a substantial amount of savings and did not feel he needed the package's benefits, but added that he appreciated the recognition for the hard work put in by his generation.

"I missed the Pioneer Generation Package by one year, so I was very glad to hear that the Government is also recognising our generation."

The ceremony yesterday coincided with the first of 23 Merdeka Generation roadshows planned for this year. The events, organised by the Ministry of Communications and Information, are expected to reach about 100,000 individuals, including members of the Merdeka Generation and their families. They will feature activities, games and performances, as well as booths offering resources and information on active ageing, tips on digital literacy and discounted rates for Sport Singapore's ActiveSG facilities.

Seniors who wish to learn new skills or pick up new interests can sign up for various programmes at the booths. They can also consult volunteers from the Silver Generation Office on how they can tap the package's benefits.

The next roadshow is on June 22 at Our Tampines Hub, with more planned for Bukit Gombak, Sengkang, Jurong West, Bukit Panjang and Marine Parade, among others.

More community events are planned for the coming weeks, where Merdeka Generation members will be able to collect their welcome folders in person.

The rest will receive theirs in the mail from late this month to the end of next month.

Tribute to those who worked hard during Singapore's formative years
By Rahimah Rashith and Felicia Choo, The Straits Times, 3 Jun 2019

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 with Merdeka Generation residents in Nee Soon as a tribute to those who worked hard during Singapore's formative years.

He spoke to about 500 residents who received their Merdeka Generation Package at an appreciation dinner at Chong Pang Community Club yesterday.

Along with 250 Sembawang GRC residents, they are part of the first batch of about 8,300 Singaporeans to receive their welcome folders.

Mr Shanmugam distributed them to Nee Soon residents born in the 1950s, and said the package aims to assure 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 as our population ages," he said.

The package, to be distributed to half a million people, includes a personal Merdeka Generation card qualifying the holder for outpatient care subsidies at general practitioner (GP) and dental clinics under the Community Health Assist Scheme (CHAS) from Nov 1.

The folder also contains a list of six CHAS clinics - four GP clinics and two dental clinics - nearest to the home of the person receiving it.

The Merdeka Generation Package, announced earlier this year by Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat, aims to offset healthcare costs that come with ageing. It includes an annual $200 Medisave top-up for eligible Singaporeans from this year to 2023. The first top-up will be automatically credited next month.

Singaporeans born from Jan 1, 1950, to Dec 31, 1959, including those who had attained citizenship by the end of 1996, are eligible for the package. It is also open to Singaporeans born by Dec 31, 1949, and those 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 and fellow Nee Soon GRC MPs Lee Bee Wah, Henry Kwek and Louis Ng also gave out the packages to their residents.

Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan, who attended the Sembawang event, called the Pioneer and Merdeka generations "very special". "We worked hard, times were hard, we saw Singapore from Third World to First," he said. "One key value is, always do your best for the next generation, so that they have a life even better than yours."

* Silver Generation Office 5GO Appreciation Reception 2019

More than 1,000 Silver Generation volunteers recognised for work supporting senior citizens
Awards for volunteers who went the extra mile to help seniors
One is a relief teacher who arranged for home-cooked meals to be sent to elderly man
By Jolene Ang, The Straits Times, 2 Sep 2019

While reaching out to senior citizens to explain government schemes, relief teacher Kalyanasundaram Chandrakala met an elderly man who said he missed home-cooked Indian food.

She made an effort to find a friend who could provide and deliver food to him. He said the food reminded him of his mother's cooking.

Madam Chandrakala, 51, who is often called Madam Kala, was one of 16 volunteers who received the Exemplary Silver Generation (SG) Ambassador award yesterday at the Singapore Expo.

The award recognises outstanding individuals who went the extra mile in supporting seniors.

Another 1,000 volunteers received the SG Ambassador Service award, which recognises dedicated active volunteers.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who attended the appreciation reception yesterday, lauded Madam Kala's "small act of kindness that went a long way to brighten up someone's life".

He added that the Silver Generation Office (SGO) has evolved beyond its initial mission of supporting Pioneer Generation seniors.

Formerly known as the Pioneer Generation Office, it was set up in 2014 to inform pioneers about the Pioneer Generation package.

"Now that you have accomplished your mission for the Pioneer Generation, we have decided to give you another mission (which is to explain the Merdeka Generation package)," PM Lee told the 2,800-strong gathering. Around 500,000 Singaporeans are eligible for the Merdeka Generation Package.

The Pioneer Generation Office was renamed SGO last year and merged with the Agency for Integrated Care, under the Ministry of Health.

SG Ambassadors make house visits to tell seniors about government policies that will benefit them, such as MediShield Life, and support schemes such as goods and services tax vouchers.

They also help connect seniors with agencies and community partners to deal with their other needs.

"The SG Ambassador is now an additional and important channel of engagement for the Government," PM Lee said, noting that their target group is more defined than other grassroots channels.

Their work goes beyond merely telling seniors about government policies, he added. "You are systematically meeting them, getting to know them, building relations and winning their trust," said PM Lee.

He added that SGO is also working with other government agencies to provide more information online, through an app, and also to create an e-version of the Merdeka Generation card.

"As a result of these new initiatives, we have been able to reach 140,000 Merdeka Generation seniors within a short span of five months," said PM Lee.

Since the Merdeka Generation outreach started, SGO's volunteer pool has increased by 25 per cent.

Said PM Lee: "Many of you, from young to old, joined because of a strong desire to give back to society.

"The SG Ambassadors' efforts have made us a more caring and cohesive society... where we feel an obligation to each other, and especially to our seniors, who have given their best years to Singapore."

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