The Government needs to join the online conversation on CPF now

Whatever they say, it is still better than total silence

Jonathan Lim| May 24, 08:05 AM

The biggest spillover effect of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's letter of demand to blogger Roy Ngerng has been the increased online chatter about the Central Provident Fund (CPF) and the Minimum Sum Scheme.

When you log on to your Facebook, you will see a number of articles questioning the feasibility of CPF that were shared by your friends.

Why hasn't someone from the Government, specifically a cabinet minister, come out to address this? On May 23, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) said it would continue to review and improve the CPF system in consultation with the labour movement and employers. However, MOM did not provide details of its review.

Here are three reasons why the Government needs to join the online CPF conversation now.


The lack of a Government voice has allowed astro-turfing to succeed

The conversation online has been led by Roy Ngerng and several social-political websites calling for the Minimum Sum Scheme or even the CPF system to be abolished.  Judging from the comments online and the articles that are circulated, it appears that many Singaporeans have questions whether the CPF is most feasible way to fund their retirement.

Are they the vocal minority or majority? There is no real way to tell. The only thing that can be observed is that the majority of comments and content online now are against CPF.

The longer the Government delays, the more people will be exposed to the negative sentiments surrounding CPF. Or worse, misinformation.


The Government thinks CPF works, but not all Singaporeans share the same sentiment all the time

Much as the Government has already been convinced by the effectiveness of CPF, the average Singaporean needs to be constantly informed of why the Government thinks CPF is a viable solution to retirement.

Some 40,000 to 45,000 young Singaporeans enter the workforce each year. Unlike their parents, they are less familiar with the social compact between Singaporeans and the government on CPF. 

The conversation online is now led by opinions against CPF, there has to be a counter-balance to this, so that young Singaporeans can be exposed to both sides of the story.

The fact is CPF is mandatory for salary-drawing Singaporeans. As Singaporeans become more financially informed, they will question why someone else should manage part of their savings.

The Government has to be sensitive to these sentiments and constantly reiterate the benefits of the CPF system. A positive communications example is how the Government reiterates the importance and relevance of National Service from time to time.


There are supporters, dissenters and there are the 'swing-voters'

Just like any elections, there are hardcore supporters and swing-voters. Swing-voters make their decisions based on their own judgement at that point in time.  The CPF issue, which has entered the conversations of many Singaporeans, is somewhat similar to elections campaigning, except that it is on one issue.

As long as the online conversation is dominated by the dissenters at this time, 'swing-voters' will only have one side of the story to look at. These 'swing-voters' will be lost in the sea of dissension.


Who should come out to ask Singaporeans to "keep calm"? 

Should Manpower Minister Tan Chuan-Jin, whose ministry oversees CPF, be the one to present the Government's point of view? Minister Tan has been pretty active on social media. When he called for calm during the Little India riots, his tweets and Facebook updates were shared widely.

Or should Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam shine some light on this issue about CPF monies?

The debate on the President's address in parliament next Monday will be an ideal opportunity to kick start this conversation online.



Top photo from here

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