Friday, March 1, 2013

The Plight of the Early Government Pensioners

It is a well-known fact that the prime minister and his ministers are drawing millions of dollars in salaries which are paid out of taxpayers' money. They are in fact wallowing in wealth at the public expense and whether they deserve such humongous (some call it obscene) salaries has been viewed with disdain by the public, especially those who are struggling with the high cost of living. And are they self-serving? PM Lee Hsien Loong and his ministers, while enjoying the comforts of life with their well-deserved{?} whopping salaries, can be said to be callous in ignoring the plight of Govenment pensioners who retired in the seventies in the last century.

At that time the salary scales were very low and as a result civil servants who retired during this period received pensions which could just possibly cope with the cost of living existing at that time. This was more than thirty years ago and the cost of living has risen so many folds during that time but the sad thing is that the pensions of these pensioners have not risen accordingly. To show the callousness of the Singapore Government, two representatives of the Singapore Government Pensioners' Association met a former Finance Minister to seek his assistance for an increase in the pensions of Government pensioners to cope with the rising cost of living and the response they got from this former Finance Minister was too shocking to be believed.The former minister told the representatives that the pensioners had served their purpose, what they were getting was enough for them to get by and the Government was just waiting for them to die off. What kind of human being is capable of such callous atrocious utterance is beyond any human comprehension.

PM Lee Hsien Loong was later asked in a letter about the former minister's callous utterance but he avoided touching on this subject. He was asked in the same letter to consider the plight of Government pensioners who retired in the seventies and to increase their pensions in acordance with the current cost of living. His answer is that Government pensions are governed by the Constitution and nothing could be done about it. This could be the lamest excuse that could have come out of the prime minister as the Constitution has been amended from time to time at the whim of the Government for whatever reason and that amending the Constitution to increase the pensions of pensioners could not have been an obstacle. It is a test of the sincerity of the prime minister whether or not he wants to do it which in this case is an act oc humanity.

In Malaysia, for example, pensions of Government pensioners are increased from time to time whenever there is a rise in the cost of living. This is not the only benefit the Malaysian pensioners enjoy. When they pass away, their spouses continue to receive their pensions and enjoy the medical benefits they have all along been receiving. In some quarters, Malaysia is not regarded as progressive as Singapore and yet they look after their Government pensioners so well that the Singapore Government could emulate with pride. Some other Commonwealth countries look after their Government pensioners in the same way as the Malaysians.

While they are wallowing in their wealth provided by the taxpayers, PM Lee and his ministers should give serious and sympathetic thoughts to the plight of Government pensioners of the seventies. This is the taxpayers' money and when they can pay themselves millions in salaries out of this fund, surely the impecunious pensioners have the equal rights, if not the morality, to the taxpayers' money to assuage their wretched condiition. These pensioners had in the past contributed significantly to the progress and development of Singapore to make it to what it is today no less than what the ministers are contributing. Moreover, their numbers are dwindling  to a very small circle and could not be a burden to the taxpayers in the way that ministers' salaries are.

Whether PM Lee Hsien Loong wants to be remembered for his humanity or callousity is important and pertinent to him as a prime minister.