Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong outlined plans to boost support on health care and public housing that he said will require “large expenditures,” putting pressure on the city state to find new sources of funding for its growing social spending.
Lee’s initiatives — detailed in his annual National Day Rally speech on Sunday — are aimed at providing financial reassurance to Singaporeans for years to come and to address locals’ concerns about rising living costs. The plans come at a time when governments around the world grapple with the challenge of losing voter support over rising income inequality.
“These are fundamental commitments by my government to you,” he said. “They are ambitious endeavors and will require large expenditures. These schemes will stretch over 50 years and more, several generations and many general elections.”
While the economy is doing well, unemployment is relatively low and wages have increased, many Singaporeans still feel their incomes aren’t sufficient to cope with higher costs, Lee said. He cited several reasons for this, including young families spending on housing and pre-school education, medical costs for the elderly, lifestyle costs, such as travel and food, and inflation.
Here are some details from the elder care and health care plans outlined by Lee in his speech:
Financial support for long-term care will be extended by revamping the current ElderShield program into the CareShield Life in 2020, to cover all Singaporeans born in 1980 or later, and to increase payouts. The government will help pay for medical costs, among other initiatives, for the post-independence generation, most of whom are in their 60s.
Singapore’s ElderShield program already provides a payment of $400 per month, for up to six years, for participants who suffer a severe disability. The program defines “severe disability” as a disability that prevents an individual from performing four activities of daily living, such as eating, dressing or bathing.
CareShield Life is supposed to make payments of at least $600 per month for as long as an older person suffers a severe disability. Enrollment will be automatic for people born in 2020 or later. People born in 1979 or earlier can join the program only if they are not already severely disabled. People born from 1970 through 1979 who have ElderShield coverage and are not severely disabled will be enrolled in the new program automatically.
A description of the ElderShield program is available here.