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Govt can raise usage of reserves: SingFirst

SingFirst candidates and members at a rally where secretary-general Tan Jee Say said the government should distribute excess returns from CPF investments, so as to pay for more social programmes for citizens.


THE government can do more to utilise Singapore's reserves for social spending, said Singaporeans First (SingFirst) secretary-general Tan Jee Say on Monday night.

Speaking at the party's third rally, Mr Tan said that the government should distribute excess returns from Central Provident Fund (CPF) investments, so as to pay for more social programmes for citizens.

He took issue with Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam's rally speech on Saturday, where Mr Tharman said that the government is "already maxing out" on its investment income from the reserves. The Constitution, Mr Tharman noted, allows the government to spend 50 per cent of income from reserves.

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Said Mr Tan in response: "But this is not the whole truth about our returns - there is still the excess returns from the investment of our CPF funds. GIC invested our CPF funds and they got 6 per cent returns every year for the last 20 years - but they gave you only 2.5 per cent. So where did the difference of 3.5 per cent go to? They kept it, and boosted up their surpluses."

At Monday's rally for Jurong group representation constituency (GRC), Mr Tan - himself a candidate for Tanjong Pagar GRC - reiterated SingFirst's proposal for a S$6 billion social safety net. He also said that the party will push for a social investment programme of S$8 billion.

"(These programmes) will not bankrupt the country. We have S$16 billion returns every year. Our social programme costs only S$14 billion . . . We still have an extra S$2 billion to spend on you," said Mr Tan.

CPF monies are invested by the CPF Board in Special Singapore Government Securities (SSGS) that are issued and guaranteed by the government. The Ministry of Finance website states: "The interest rates that CPF members receive (are) significantly higher than for equivalent, risk-free market instruments currently. There is also no link between CPF interest rates and the returns earned by GIC. The CPF Board invests CPF savings entirely in risk-free SSGS issued by the government. CPF members receive fair returns as described above, with no investment risk."

Come polling day on Sept 11, Jurong GRC will see a straight fight between the People's Action Party (PAP) and SingFirst. Candidates from the latter on Monday said they will reduce transport fares by 30 per cent, and push for national referendums on projects that cost more than S$50 million.

SingFirst's team is led by chemist David Foo. The other four members are social entrepreneur and retired colonel Tan Peng Ann, former police officer Sukdeu Singh, chemical and marine hardware business owner Wong Soon Hong, and Wong Chee Wai, who is self-employed.

They will square off against the PAP team, which comprises Mr Tharman, Minister of State for National Development Desmond Lee, backbencher and senior vice-president of SBS Transit bus operations Ang Wei Neng, former Deputy Registrar of the Syariah Court Rahayu Mahzam and oncologist Tan Wu Meng.

At the 2011 polls, the PAP team beat the National Solidarity Party (NSP), winning 66.96 per cent of the vote.