An unpublished letter sent to Straits Times Forum
13 July 2003
The PAP Government’s refusal to allow needy Singaporeans to have access to their hard earned CPF funds comes as no surprise to me.
It is a reflection that million-dollar ministers with iron rice bowls cannot fully appreciate the plight of the common man.
There already have been several discussions on the sound merits of releasing CPF funds during these difficult times, and to keep my letter short, I will not cover old ground.
It was with much disgust and contempt that I read Mr Law Kim Hwees article (ST, 12 July 2003). In short Mr Law said: “let us resist the temptation to dip into our Central Provident Funds for all and sundry purposes.”
To Mr Law and the myopic minority who persist in arguing that the PAP Government’s position on this issue is right I would like to pose several irrefutable facts:
a) Removing restrictions on CPF funds is a liberalizing policy move. It gives the average Singaporean more options. No one is pointing a gun at you and dictating that you have to spend or take out the CPF money. If you stringently believe that you are better off leaving the money in the CPF account, by all means do so! This choice is still available to you. But for those who really need the money here and now, they have ready access to it.
b) With the above in mind the irrefutable logical conclusion is that supporters of the PAP Government’s policy are basically back to square one (i.e. they can leave the CPF money in their CPF accounts) even if the CPF restrictions are removed. What then is the real reason for refusing access to CPF money?
Mr Law wrote that the proposal to release CPF funds “again places the onus on the Government to facilitate entrepreneurs seeking funding.” This is completely inaccurate. Indeed, the opposite is true: Removal of restrictions to CPF funds allows Singaporeans to assume direct responsibility over their personal finances and their lives!
Mr Law and PAP supporters are basically afraid (or unable to) to assume responsibility over their own finances. This same group of sad people who prefer not to have the option of taking the money out at all. They do not want the burden of making an independent decision. The PAP Government is endorsing this same dependent mindset and taking full advantage of this myopia.
Mr Law has also given the following “helpful” suggestions to would-be entrepreneurs: “let any would-be entrepreneur put into practice his entrepreneurship – if he truly believes in his business idea, let him convince potential investors or bankers. Given the already-conducive environment and the predisposition of Singaporeans to achieve higher returns on their cash, would-be entrepreneurs will find an open, if not a ready, pool of investors.”
Has Mr Law and the policymakers tried first hand to source for funding from conservative banks and investors? I have and I can tell you that banks and investors are by and large a conservative lot, more so in today’s adverse economic climate. You try walking into any bank with a fresh original start-up proposition and chances are that it will be turned down by some credit risk management committee.
Banks and “Potential Investors” will tear the start-up idea to shreds and subject it to ruthless logical scrutiny and base-case scenarios before telling me what I already know, that this is risky business and it is beyond the bank’s risk appetite.
This is precisely why would-be entrepreneurs need access to their CPF funds. A real entrepreneur will setout to prove the banker wrong. Yes, he may fail, or he may succeed, but that is the risk that comes along with successful entrepreneurship.
So what crucial matters are deemed by the PAP Government to be well within the responsibilities of average Singaporean? The ability to choose to buy chewing gum and to bungee jump. It’s perfectly all right to risk life and limb in bungee jumping, but its not all right to risk CPF money. This is PAP logic for you.
And pray tell how does this help the plight of a financially strapped unemployed professional with bills to pay and hungry mouths to feed?
By refusing to allow Singaporeans to have access to CPF funds for start-ups, Mr Law and the PAP Government are implicitly confirming to the public that it is not all right to fail. It is not ok to take risks!
We can stop wondering why Singaporeans lack entrepreneurial spirit. The system has successfully bred mindless automatons who are afraid to assume responsibility over their own finances and take their lives back into their own hands. This same breed of people will look for life in the comfort zone, where all decisions are made for them. With no decisions, there are no responsibilities.
Goh Wee Soon