SETTING up an appeals panel for the Pioneer Generation Package will ensure that no deserving Singaporean falls through the cracks, said MPs.
“No matter how comprehensive the Government has been, there may still be people who do not qualify based on the criteria, but have valid reasons,” Sembawang GRC MP Ellen Lee said.
The panel will comprise government officials and community leaders from various groups, according to Senior Minister of State for Finance Josephine Teo.
It will assess appeals on a case-by-case basis from those who marginally miss out on the criteria, but who have good claims to be counted among the pioneer generation, Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam said during the Budget speech last Friday.
The $8 billion package recognises the nation-building contributions of first-generation Singaporeans, by providing Medisave top-ups, subsidies for the new MediShield Life insurance scheme, and subsidies for outpatient treatment.
To fall into the pioneer generation category, a Singaporean must satisfy two criteria. First, they must be 65 or older this year. Second, they must have been citizens before 1987.
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.
Nee Soon GRC MP Patrick Tay recounted how he had heard from a woman whose mother received her citizenship only in 1992, even though she has been living here since her youth. Mr Tay said the panel may want to consider these cases, which were not as “clear-cut” as age.
Extending the package to those who had just missed the age floor may lead to problems, Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC MP Zainal Sapari pointed out.
“If you give allowance to those that miss by one day, then what about those who missed by two days?” he asked. The Government just has to “draw the line and stick to it”, he added.
He was among 20 MPs interviewed by The Straits Times, with only a few saying they had received queries from old folk who missed the cut so far.
The eligibility criteria for the Pioneer Generation package were a carefully deliberated decision, a Ministry of Finance spokesman said in response to queries. She added that the ministry has received a small number of appeals, inquiring both about the age cut-off as well as the citizenship criteria.
Source: The Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Limited. Reproduced with permission.
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