Singapore has come a long way in our country’s history. Today, we are at a crossroads. How can our country continue to grow while our people will be taken care of, protected and be free.
As citizens who care for our country, as Singaporeans who have a stake in our country, it is our birthright, and it is our responsibility to speak up, and voice out so that we can create solutions for our country and better not only our lives, but that of our fellowmen.
After nearly 50 years, Singapore might have a First World economy and we have First World costs. But do we have a First World government? Do we have First World lives? Today, many Singaporeans struggle with our lives, earning the lowest wages among the high-income countries even as Singapore has become the most expensive place to live in the world. Singaporeans struggle to make ends meet and fear that we do not have enough to use.
But this shouldn’t happen. This shouldn’t be where Singapore is today, not when Singapore is now one of the richest countries in the world, where our politicians are the highest paid in the world. This disparity shouldn’t happen where our politicians are able to enjoy their lives while the common Singaporean struggle everyday for our own lives.
“If Your Treat Us Well, We Will Treat You Even Better”
No, we are not envious. We do not want more because we are envious. Singaporeans are a cool-headed people. We are people who will stick together through thick and thin with you, if we know that we can trust you. A Singaporean told me, “For us Singaporeans, if you treat us well, we will treat you even better”. We have integrity. We believe in justice. We believe in fairness.
But when you betray our trust, we will not hold back and we will not take kindly to it.
A government should protect its citizens. A government should put its citizens first and create policies to take care of its people and make sure that we can feel safe in our own country. A government has a responsibility, to listen to its people, to be humble and to work with its people to execute our demands. This is what a government should be doing.
When Singaporeans talk about the CPF, when we raise our concerns, it is the responsibility of the government to listen. Why do Singaporeans have to sell our homes just because we do not have enough to retire on? Why do Singaporeans have to sell our homes because we do not have enough to pay for our hospital bills? Why do our elderly Singaporeans continue to have to work because our CPF is not good enough for us to retire on?
If the CPF is not good enough, then can we still trust the government to take care of our CPF?
Today, our grandmothers and grandfathers have to work as cleaners, odd-job labourers and cardboard collectors because they do not have enough to retire on. 20 years ago, they earned $800. Today, they still earn $800. If they cannot retire, is it because they did not work hard enough? Or were they not paid well enough?
Last week, a Singaporean told me, “The government makes me beg them to help me. But I also have my dignity. I also have my pride. If I keep begging and they still do not help me, why should I keep begging?”
Do our poor remain poor because they do not work hard enough? Is it right for our lower-income Singaporeans to believe that they should remain poor because they are not good enough? Or not smart enough? Or that they did not work hard enough? No, it is not right. Our poor and our elderly workers work the longest hours in Singapore. If that is not hardworking, then what is?
Singaporeans are a hardworking people. We will work hard if we know that for the sake of our country, our family and our children, we will have better lives. We will do it. But when we work so hard but we realise that our hard work is being taken for granted, then how can we still have faith that our government has our interests at heart and will protect us?
Today, many Singaporeans cannot retire. Today, Singaporeans work very hard but we cannot see our CPF grow. Today, we fear that we might never be able to feel safe in our own country.
Singaporeans Demand Transparency and Accountability On Our CPF
It is now a known fact that the government takes our CPF to invest in the GIC, the government’s investment firm. The government takes our CPF to earn 6.5% but only gives back to us a low 2.5% to 4% interest on our CPF. This is the lowest interest rates in the world. In the 1970s and 1980s, Singaporeans were earning a 6.5% interest on our CPF. Why did the government push it down to 2.5% in 1999?
Singaporeans cannot retire today because our CPF cannot grow. Our wages did not grow, so our CPF did not grow. But prices grew, housing prices grew and the CPF Minimum Sum grew. Why would the government increase the CPF Minimum Sum by more than 6%, knowing full well that our CPF will never be able to grow fast enough to meet the CPF Minimum Sum?
Then, what is the government trying to do with our CPF?
(1) Singaporeans Demand Transparency from the GIC
On the GIC’s website, they had previously said that, “GIC manages the Government’s reserves, but as to how the funds from CPF monies flow into reserves which could then be managed by either MAS, GIC or Temasek, this is not made explicit to us.”
They had also said that, “The Government, which is represented by the Ministry of Finance in its dealings with GIC, neither directs nor interferes in the company’s investment decisions. It holds the board accountable for the overall portfolio performance.”
So, the GIC claimed that they do not know how they use our CPF to invest and they claimed that the government does not interfere in the GIC.
But when you look at the GIC’s Board of Directors, their Chairman is the Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. Their directors the two deputy prime ministers Tharman Shanmugaratnam and Teo Chee Hean, the Minister for Education Heng Swee Keat and the Minister for Trade & Industry Lim Hng Kiang. Their Senior Advisor is Lee Kuan Yew.
So, how can it be possible that the GIC does not know how they are using our CPF? How can it be possible that the government does not interfere in the GIC?
Then who is not telling Singaporeans the truth? Is the GIC not telling the truth? Or is the government not telling the truth?
After this fact has been exposed, the GIC changed what they write on their website. Now, it says, “GIC, along with MAS, manage the proceeds from the securities issued and guaranteed by the government (SSGS) which CPF board has invested in with the CPF monies. So while the CPF monies are not directly transferred to GIC for management, one of the sources of funds that goes into the Government’s assets managed by GIC is the proceeds from SSGS.”
What the GIC is saying is that our CPF is invested in government securities which goes into the Government’s assets managed by the GIC. In short, our CPF is managed by the GIC.
So, from not knowing how our CPF is being invested in the GIC, suddenly, the GIC and the government knows that how CPF is being invested in the GIC? Why did the GIC suddenly change what they say and suddenly admit that they know how they are using our CPF? Why did the GIC make this about turn? Why did the GIC change what they say after this information became public?
So, why did the GIC first tell us that they do not know how they our using our CPF, then suddenly tell us that they do?
All this while, the Singapore prime minister, the two deputy prime ministers and the ministers are on the board of directors on the GIC and are our government. Now, what game are they playing?
Not only that, the fund managers at the GIC are also “paid a fee” to manage the funds. How much is this “fee”? There is no transparency as to how much this is. Now, the ministers are currently paid millions from our taxpayers money. How much more are they paid as fund managers from our CPF monies?
Does it make sense that the ministers are paid millions when Singaporeans are unable to take our CPF out?
What we should ask is this – should the prime minister of Singapore be on the board of directors of the GIC? Should the deputy prime ministers and the ministers be on the board of directors on the GIC? Is there a conflict of interest?
Who will protect our CPF money if the government is also the GIC, which wants to make money out of CPF?
The GIC does not publish full reports on how they use our funds. Do we know what the prime minister, deputy prime minister and the ministers are using our funds for? Do we know how they are using it?
(2) Singaporeans Demand Transparency and Accountability from Temasek Holdings
A few days ago, Temasek Holdings wrote to The Straits Times to say that, “Temasek does not invest or manage the savings of CPF members”.
But in the book, Development States: Relevancy, Redundancy Or Reconfiguration, it was stated that “since the late 1970s, CPF’s reserves as part of public sector surplus have been co-mingled with other investments either domestically by Temasek Holding Ltd or abroad by the GIC”.
If so, does this mean that at one point in time, our CPF was invested in the Temasek Holdings? If so, when did the government stop investing our CPF in the Temasek Holdings? Last year? A few years ago? 10 years ago? Can the government be transparent with us?
Temasek Holdings earn a 16% interest. If our CPF was invested in the Temasek Holdings, then we should get our interest back.
(3) Singaporeans Demand Transparency and Accountability from the Government
Last year, I had also looked through several government websites and found specific evidence of how our CPF is invested in the GIC and the Temasek Holdings. From what I had gathered from several government websites, I was able to trace that our “CPF monies are invested in bonds” or “Special Singapore Government Securities”, which are then “invested in reserves”, and which are “managed by three agencies – the GIC, Temasek Holdings and the Monetary Authority of Singapore.”
However, last week, when I checked on these websites again, the government has removed or changed some of the information from their websites. Now, you can no longer tell that our CPF is being invested in the GIC and Temasek Holdings. The two specific evidence that have been changed are these. First, the government removed information that our CPF is invested “in reserves”. Next, the government removed information that shows directly that the reserves are managed by the GIC, Temasek Holdings and the Monetary Authority of Singapore.
Why did the government do this? Why does the government not want Singaporeans to know that our CPF is invested in the reserves? Why does the government not want Singaporeans to know that our CPF is being invested in the GIC and Temasek Holdings?
What is the government trying to hide?
(4) Singaporeans Demand Full Records from the GIC and Temasek Holdings
Finally, in 1993, President Ong Teng Cheong wanted to fulfill his responsibilities as our elected President to protect the reserves. He asked the government to let him know how much there are in the reserves. However, the government told him that it would take 56-man years to count and let him know.
But now, we know that the reserves are managed by the GIC, Temasek Holdings and the MAS. If so, the GIC, Temasek Holdings and the MAS would have kept full and proper records. This is what we expect of an efficient and upright government. So, how can it be possible that it would take 56-man years for them to count how much there are in the reserves?
Now, if the GIC, Temasek Holdings and the MAS are not keeping proper records, then we have to question if they are handling our public funds properly. Can we trust them with our public funds if they do not keep proper records of our money?
But if they do keep proper records, then why did the government tell President Ong Teng Cheong that it would take 56-man years to let him know how much there are in the reserves? President Ong Teng Cheong had wanted to protect our money, the money of Singaporeans. And if President Ong Teng Cheong is not even allowed to know how our money is being used, then who else is?
Then, who will be able to protect our money?
Now, there is no transparency.
When there is no transparency, will there be honesty?
When there is no transparency, will there be justice?
When there is no transparency, will there be accountability?
When there is no accountability, who knows what is happening to our CPF?
When Singaporeans cannot retire, why? Why Singaporeans cannot take out our CPF, why? Why our CPF is trapped inside, why?
When there is no transparency, will there be honesty?
So I ask again, did the GIC and Temasek Holdings use our CPF money? How long have they been using our money to earn for themselves? How much money have they earned with our CPF?
We want full reports. Not just from today. But for all the years since 1974, when Temasek Holdings was first started. What have they done with our money? Why are Singaporeans so poor today? Why can’t we take our CPF out today? Show us the money! Show us all the records. It is time the government stop hiding. It is time the government stops pretending.
The only way we will ever know is for the government to show us all the records. The only way we will ever know is for the government to be transparent and accountable!
Where is our money? What is the government doing with our CPF money? Show us the records! Tell us the truth. Be honest to Singaporeans.
A New Beginning Today
I have spoken up because I believe that as a government, there is a responsibility and duty to the people. A government has to be honest and accountable to the people. A government has to be truthful to the people. Singaporeans have a right to know how our money is being used and where it is going. If we cannot retire, we have a right to know why.
To grow our CPF, the government has to increase our wages. To grow our CPF, the government has to increase the CPF interest rates.
When our wages grow, when the CPF interest rates grow, our CPF will grow and Singaporeans will be able to retire, with dignity and with respect.
What we want is not the CPF Minimum Sum. What we want is minimum wage.
What we want is not for the government to take our CPF to earn high interests at the GIC and Temasek Holdings. What we want is for the interest our CPF earn to be returned back to us.
What we want is not for the government to take our CPF to use without telling us. What we want is for us, Singaporeans, to be consulted before the government takes our money to use.
What we want is not for the government to tell us that it is not in our interest to know what they are doing with our CPF money. What we want is transparency and accountability.
The CPF is our money. We, the citizens of Singapore, are the owners of our money and our country. It is our right to decide what we want to do with our CPF money.
It is not the prerogative of the government to decide what they want to do with our CPF money and to tell us to take it or leave it. No, it is not. It is the responsibility of the government to listen to what we, the citizens of Singapore want, and to do what we want them to do. This is what a government should do.
It is the responsibility of the government to act in accordance to the people’s wants and not make Singaporeans act in accordance to what they want.
We, the citizens of Singapore, decide who gets voted into government. It is the government that has to listen to Singaporeans, and not the other way round.
- Instead of 2.5%, Singaporeans should be earning a much higher interest rate on our CPF!
- Instead of receiving only a few hundred dollars from our CPF payout, Singaporeans should be receiving a much higher payout!
- Instead of having our retirement funds trapped inside the CPF, Singaporeans should be able to withdraw it and invest for higher returns!
- If the GIC and Temasek Holdings take our CPF monies to invest, then we demand full transparency, accountability and full reports on how our CPF monies are being used!
It is the duty of a government to listen, to answer and to respond. It is not right if a government chooses to stop us from asking these questions. We have a right. Singaporeans have a right.
When we see our elders working as cleaners, odd-job labourers and cardboard collectors, is it right that after giving their lives to build Singapore to what it is today, that we continue to make them toil and work?
As Singaporeans, as a society, we have a responsibility to our elders. If they want to work, we have to respect that. But if they want to rest and finally spend some time for themselves, we have a responsibility as a people to ensure that they are able to do so.
When we see Singaporeans who have to earn low wages, is it right that we judge them and think that they are earning low wages because they are not hardworking enough? As a people, we have to value one another and all Singaporeans equally. No matter whether you are a CEO, a cleaner, a teacher or a nurse, each and every life is valuable, should be respected and should be honoured. We have to treat our people with dignity, with pride and with kindness, and pay them right.
When we see our families with children, is it right to leave them to fend for themselves, to pay for expensive healthcare and education? As a society, we have a responsibility to our community and our families, to take care of them, and of one another. We have a duty to protect the members of our community and our larger family. If all Singaporeans can rise together, our country will grow.
Today, Singapore is at a crossroads. Where do we go from here?
Singapore is our country. Singapore is our home. Today, I have spoken up. And so have many others. Many others who have spoken to me, sent messages to me and supported me in this journey. I thank you and I am grateful. I am only an ordinary Singaporean. I want to speak up because I care for our country. And so do many of you here and us Singaporeans. Today, we have spoken up and we have made ourselves heard. Today is a new beginning where we, Singaporeans, come together, to chart a new direction for our country and our future. No more shall we keep quiet. No more shall we be shy.
Today, we will be brave. We will stand tall. We will question and we will demand for answers. For today, we have found a new courage, a new hope and a new inspiration. Today, we will be united and we will, as Singaporeans and every person in our country who care for our country, we will join hands and we will create a new destiny!
I believe that one day, our people will be free, respected and equal, as we once were, where we will live our lives happy, together and hopeful.
I believe in a society where our old are able to live in dignity, where our poor are not poor but rich, where our families are strong, and where Singaporeans are proud and confident of who we are.
I believe that one day, all of us will speak up from our hearts, to care for one another and take care of the person next to us.
I believe that we can see a more equal, a happier, a just and dignified Singapore and Singaporeans today, in our lifetime.
This is what I believe.
We can make this happen if we believe deep within our hearts, find the strength from deep within and believe in ourselves. We can see the future that we have always wished for grow in front of our very eyes if we find the courage within us, hold on to it, and let it grow.
Many of us have dreams and hopes for a beautiful future, and a new Singapore.
Now, just believe, stay true and stay united. It is time. If we believe, let’s make it happen now. If we believe, we will make it happen.
It is time, my friends. The time for change is now. Take heart, take pride, stay strong and let’s make it happen. Majulah Singapura!
My friends, it’s time to awaken. It’s time to rise. It’s time to take control. And take back our lives, our money, our pride and our dignity. The time for change is now. The time for change is today in our hands. Take it. Use it. Be the change you wish to see. And let’s work together to create the Singapore we have always wanted. And what we will be proud of. A Singapore which is equal, just, honest and fair. A transparent and accountable Singapore where all Singaporeans and people of our land will be protected and cared for. This is the Singapore that we are proud of, and the Singapore that it’s time to fight with our lives for. It is time, my friends. Speak up, believe and make our dreams come true.