By Howard Lee
More than 1,200 people have requested to be included as members of the Pioneer Generation, as they did not satisfy the requirements to qualify for the related benefits.
The Pioneer Generation Package (PGP) website states the qualifying conditions – citizens need to be born on or before 31 Dec 1949 (i.e. 65 years and above from 1 Jan 2014) and have received their citizenship by 31 Dec 1986.
Media reports indicated that of the 1,200 applicants, half did not meet the age requirement, and the other half the citizenship requirement.
Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam first announced in February this year that a panel will be set up to assess appeals, on a case-by-case basis, for inclusion in the Pioneer Generation, “as there may be individuals who marginally miss out but have “good claims to be counted among the Pioneer Generation””.
However, Member of Parliament Tin Pei Ling has urged the appeals panel to clarify the principles and conditions of the review process. “I think that will give more confidence, and will also help to reduce potential confusion over who is or isn’t eligible for it, and who can or cannot enjoy the benefits from this package,” she was reported as saying.
According to Senior Minister of State for Finance and Transport Josephine Teo, the panel comprises government officials and community leaders from various groups. It is not clear if they constitute grassroot leaders in constituencies.
Ms Teo also said in July this year that the panel was “in the process of working out the approach to take when assessing appeals” and that “more will be shared in due course”.
To date, no clarification has been made on how the panel assess appeals, and what criteria is used for evaluation.
Media reports have also indicated that the panel will give “more consideration… to those assessed to have contributed to the nation.” The conditions for such contributions were not defined.
Results of the appeals are expected to be out by September at the earliest.
The lack of clarity has earlier led some MPs to give their own views on the assessment process and who has such “good claims to be counted among the Pioneer Generation”.
According to media reports, “MPs, who have fanned out to spread the news and details of the package to their constituents in recent days, said those who appeal based on citizenship criteria might stand a higher likelihood of success.”
Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC MP Zainal Sapari was also of the view that the age criteria was not a good assessment method. “If you give allowance to those that miss by one day, then what about those who missed by two days?” He had indicated a preference for the government to “draw the line and stick to it”.
Announced as part of Budget 2014, the PGP has a total value of S$8 billion, and was meant to recognise the nation-building contributions of first-generation Singaporeans.
This is done by providing Medisave top-ups, subsidies for the new MediShield Life insurance scheme, and subsidies for outpatient treatment.
In addition, those aged 55 and above this year who do not qualify for the PGP will receive Medisave top-ups of about S$100 to S$200 a year over the next five years.