SINGAPORE: The Merdeka Generation Package for Singaporeans born in the 1950s - first announced at last year’s National Day Rally - will be a "substantial" one and go some way in helping these citizens with their medical expenses, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Saturday (Feb 2).
Those born in 1949 and earlier who had missed out on the previous Pioneer Generation Package but had obtained citizenship by Dec 31, 1996 will also qualify, added Mr Lee.
"Ministers Heng Swee Keat and Gan Kim Yong will announce the details in Parliament later this month, so I shall not steal their thunder," said the Prime Minister.
"But I can tell you without giving away any secrets that it is a substantial package, and will go some way to helping you with your medical expenses, and to expressing the nation’s gratitude to the Merdeka Generation."
Mr Lee was speaking at a tribute event for 200 Merdeka Generation guests and their partners at Gardens by the Bay.
During last year's National Day Rally, Mr Lee had said the package would include the likes of outpatient subsidies, Medisave top-ups, premium subsidies for the MediShield Life insurance scheme and payouts for long term care.
These are similar areas covered by the S$8 billion Pioneer Generation Package launched in 2014 to help with healthcare costs.
There are an estimated 500,000 Merdeka Generation individuals in Singapore.
"The package is for those born in the 1950s - the years when we strove for Merdeka: Freedom, independence and sovereignty," said Mr Lee, who was born in 1952 and also belongs to the Merdeka Generation.
The Merdeka Generation, mostly in their 60s today, were part of Singapore’s journey from third world to first.
They lived through challenges such as the major recession in 1985, the Asian Financial Crisis about 10 years later and the global financial crisis in 2008.
The generation was also alive during the Sep 11, 2001 attacks in the United States as well as the SARS outbreak in Singapore two years after.
“We had lived through the upheavals of the independence struggle in the 1950s and early 1960s, as well as the years in Malaysia," said Mr Lee. "We saw what our parents went through. We were determined to pick up from them and keep on building Singapore."
He noted Singapore has completely changed today, but the country faces new challenges including keeping the economy competitive, preparing for an ageing population and maintaining social mobility.
"If the Merdeka Generation can pass down your life experience and survival values to future generations, you will do another great service to Singapore," he said.
Speaking to reporters, some members of the Merdeka Generation said they were glad that their generation is being recognised.
“We hope that we will be well taken care of, because our age is catching up. We do not know when we will fall sick. I'm very proud that I'm part of the generation,” said 61-year-old Mr Mohamed Salleh Ali.
Meanwhile, Mr Eric Wong, 63, shared that the support will help them continue to contribute to Singapore: "Today, I find that I’m better than the older generation, and my children are better than me. And hopefully this goes on."
Saturday’s event also saw the launch of a video with the theme “Hands that Shaped the Nation”, that paid tribute to the determination, perseverance and hope of the Merdeka Generation throughout Singapore’s formative years.
Guests were also treated to performances by fellow Merdeka Generation members like singer-songwriter Dick Lee and singer Rahimah Rahim, who debuted the song Merdeka Sayang.
The song, which conveys the pride of the Merdeka Generation for the role they played in shaping Singapore’s progress, was a remix of Lee’s Rasa Sayang.
Lee said he was inspired by his memories growing up and how his generation is still active.
"Having black-and-white TV, for example, and how buses had no air-con. How we are today … we're so positive and still active, and still have a lot of things we want to do," he said.