MPF rewards vendors today to detriment of society tomorrow

PUBLISHED : Monday, 16 March, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 16 March, 2009, 12:00am

I refer to Edwin Chok's letter ('MPF may deliver in the long term - only to fund managers', March 6).

Let us not beat about the bush.

We should all agree that our Mandatory Provident Fund (MPF) as presently organised is a blot on our society with nothing to recommend it. Deception and impoverishment of the elderly are particularly nasty features.

Observers of the US scene may notice some resemblance to the subprime shearing of the gullible (except that the US government did not actually force the population to purchase risky assets, but merely looked the other way).

Assuming that a government's role is to avoid chaos, not actively promote it, we should look back to Germany in 1880 when Bismarck introduced the concept of social benefits, the purpose of which was to reinforce the idea of conservatism and allegiance to national institutions.

We could also look at the very successful Central Provident Fund (CPF) in Singapore.

We may not always agree with all of the values of former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew, but the CPF, by providing actual rather than virtual benefits, has instilled strong feelings of trust.

Our Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen paid a visit to Singapore and could have brought back with him the CPF blueprint but elected to stay with the cheap and nasty MPF.

Maybe Mr Tsang and his advisers could re-read Adam Smith's The Wealth of Nations. The philosopher-economist's point was that a wise government should take advantage of the greed of vendors for the benefit of society.

This reading implies some degree of knowledge and responsibility on the part of the government. In contrast, our MPF rewards vendors today to the detriment of society tomorrow - a disturbing message for our children as well as our elderly.

For those who believe that the incompetence of governments (and business) is, like the poor, always with us, we can look to the immortal words of Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy for a touch of comic relief. Substitute our 'MFP' for their 'mess' and we arrive at: 'Another fine MPF you've got us into, Donald.'

Don Allison, Kowloon Tong