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1980: Evolution in CPF and industry

New CPF rules, a Texas Instruments plant and disgruntled pilots launch a new decade.


THE evolution of the Central Provident Fund (CPF) took a major step in 1980 when the government allowed Singaporeans to use what was supposed to be retirement savings to buy private property.

The rule change was more liberal than many expected. Singaporeans could use up to 90 per cent of their ordinary account money to buy private property, whether in terms of servicing mortgages or as consideration for the property. There were also no residency requirements for properties bought using CPF money, which meant that the CPF money could be used on properties meant for investment rather than for occupation.

Using CPF money to finance a home is now par for the course for many homeowners in Singapore today. But the impact of that piece of policy was not limited to Singapore's property market. It was also a key milestone in how policymakers perceived the role of the CPF and how CPF savings could be used - issues that continue to capture the national attention even today.

The CPF was not the only major institution that was changing. Singapore manufacturing was transforming as well, with electronics and semiconductors a key cog in plans to upgrade the national economy.

Those plans received a significant upgrade when Texas Instruments decided to open a memory chip plant in Singapore. The plant was so advanced that the company planned to send most of its staff for training in the United States. It goes without saying that generous incentives by the government helped to make all of that feasible.

Not every national institution was sailing smoothly, however. At Singapore Airlines, pilots who were unhappy about their hours took to protesting with "work-to-rule" tactics. Cockpit teams would stand down at one of the stops on long-haul trips, causing massive delays.

The dispute between the airline and its pilots drew the involvement, and ire, of the government, with the leaders of the pilots' union eventually being sanctioned for their tactics.

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