Singapore man sues Ministry of Social Development

by Miklos Bolza20 Jan 2016
A New Zealand-based Singaporean, Tan Kong Hwee, has taken the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) to court for decreasing his local pension benefits.
He claimed this action reduced the amount he received from his Central Provident Fund (CPF) deposits in Singapore. The CPF is the Singaporean equivalent of superannuation, where employers put a certain amount towards an employee’s retirement with each monthly paycheque.
Tan also sought to bring in Prime Minister John Key as a defendant, alleging that the PM had failed in his duty to correct the injustices given.
A judicial tribunal based in Wellington has ordered that the case be sent for mediation, saying that there was a “clear interest” for both parties to settle informally before going to tribunal.
In October, Tan complained about reductions to his retirement benefits, claiming he was discriminated against as a Singaporean. He felt aggrieved that expats who left Singapore could withdraw their CPF savings while Singapore citizens such as himself could not.
He used PM Key, who used to work in Singapore as head of Merrill Lynch’s Asian foreign exchange, as an example. Prior to moving from Singapore to London, Key was able to withdraw his CPF savings.
In New Zealand, Tan received payouts according to the Superannuation and Retirement Income Act 2001.
After hearing the case, a three-member human rights review tribunal stated that Tan had no legal basis to bring in PM Key as a defendant and ordered that Key’s name be removed. The chief executive officer of the MSD has been left as the sole defendant.
The case has now been sent to the New Zealand Human Rights Commission for mediation. Progress reports are now required every four months with the first due in April.
In previous cases like this, the MSD has always denied any unlawful discrimination, saying complaints have been about the nature of pensions and not about age, sex, religion, etc.
“MSD had taken the same stance towards all pensions earned overseas,” the commission said in its response to the tribunal.


  • by James Jesudhass 27/01/2016 2:22:26 a.m.

    This mail is in respond to your article I read in your papers. As a Singaporean, I am entitled to recuperate my saving which I have deposited in the early years of employment in Singapore into a special saving plan (Central Provident Fund Board).The purpose of this compulsory saving scheme is to ensure that there is some money available in my retirement years which Singapore Government deem it to be 63 years of age.

    The bulk of my CPF contributions is deducted from my salary by my employer hence I defer my spending by getting less take-home-pay. These deductions are clearly employees' (my) money. The other contributions are from my employer meant it for me "the employee". Employers calculate their business cost and take into account the full amount paid to employees. If they pay higher employers' CPF contributions, they adjust the salaries so that the total amount paid out reflects their business costs. These contributions are placed with the Government for saving keeping in a fund called “Central Provident Fund Board"

    From the employee point of view, employers' contributions are part of their total pay package, which they expect to be able to use it for housing, medical or for their children education. Employers' contributions into the CPF are, therefore, treated by both parties as payments to the employee, and not a gratuitous "co-payment" or pension paid out by the ruling Government.

    At 63 years of age I can choose to take my money saved with the CPF on a monthly basis (recent law change do not allow total amount saved to be withdrawn in total). Your CPF amount can also be a deferred payment, (deposits) will incur higher pay out interest if kept in CPF account. Some Singaporean have only $10,000 of life time saving and some may have a million dollars in their CPF account due to higher wages and both will or can draw out their saving with CPF until their money kept with CPF runs out so how can it be a pension given by the government. When the member dies is balance money with the CPF will be given to his next of kin.

    I hope this email explain the situation.