Delivered in Parliament on 5 July 2021
Mr Speaker, early last month, I hosted a Zoom webinar organised by the Sengkang Constituency Committee, where we shared with our residents the importance of Wills, CPF nominations, and the Lasting Power of Attorney or LPA. Each one of these instruments play an important role in estate planning and helps provide peace of mind for our loved ones should something untoward happen in our lives. While we are still fortunate to be in good health and of sound mental capacity today, an LPA arguably also provides us with the serenity of knowing full well, that there will be someone we trust to undertake key decisions for us, should we lose mental capacity one day.
I thus believe that having an LPA or Will done up to provide assurances in the event of the ‘ifs’ and ‘what ifs’ in life, is no less important than the assurance of having basic health insurance plans in place, such as Medishield for example – to which I note that with the rollout of Medishield Life in 2015, all Singaporeans are now covered for life, compared to 2.8 million Medishield policyholders back in 2006, notwithstanding the general population increase since then.
I was thus a little sad and frankly unsurprised however, that based on the straw poll we conducted during our Zoom webinar, only 5% of our webinar participants have indicated that they have done up an LPA, and 6% having done up a Will. Upon conducting further research, I note that up to 2020, there has only been about 100,000 LPAs registered in Singapore. Even if we exclude foreigners and base our calculations off the resident adult population of about 3.2 million people, the number of registered LPAs represent a mere 3.1% of the resident adult population.
I recognise that the Ministry of Social and Family Development expects more than 40,000 LPAs to be registered by year-end. But even so, based on 40,000 LPAs registered a year, this will take the equivalent of almost 80 years to get everyone covered; and most of us would not be here by then!
Beyond the technical amendments to this bill, the key question I have for the Minister is thus, do we have a target to aspire to, in terms of the number and percentage of LPA registrations in Singapore? Beyond the digitalisation of the LPAs and the waiver of the application fee for LPA Form 1 since September 2014, what more is being done, and how much resources are being dedicated to ensuring that we raise the awareness of LPAs and ultimately, the number of LPA registrations in Singapore?
Looking into the details of the bill, my first clarification is on Section 31A, which my colleague Ms Sylvia Lim has discussed. While the new section allows for the Public Guardian to interview donors if there is reasonable cause to suspect that fraud or undue pressure was used to induce the donor to execute the LPA or to appoint a particular Donee, I wonder if a caveat mechanism can be put in place as a preventive measure to protect vulnerable persons and prevent abuse, rather than just a risk-based approach of requiring an interview when risks are identified?
This could involve for example, having a next-of-kin or appointed caregiver submitting a declaration, substantiated with medical opinion that a person already lacks mental capacity or have intellectual disabilities. And that any attempts by the person to register for an LPA would raise an immediate red flag.
My main concern, however, is that surrounding the transition to a purely electronic transaction system, the Office of the Public Guardian Online electronic system (OPGO). I consider myself a digital native, and appreciate the digitalisation of paper-based process, especially one which involves snail mail, to a purely electronic one. But for consequential documents, such as the ELD’s nomination papers or residential sale & purchase agreements, there is a certain degree of comfort and confidence from the tactile experience of touching and signing a physical document.
The digital divide is thus real and cannot be ignored, as can be seen from recent experiences of residents choosing a physical TraceTogether Token instead of downloading the TraceTogether App, or the SingapoRediscover Vouchers, on which many residents have shared with me feedback on the convoluted digital process of redeeming the SRVs.
As such, I would like to ask if the Minister would consider retaining the option for Donors to draft their LPA on a hard copy version of LPA Form 1, if it is preferred, rather than only for exceptional circumstances? I note that for CPF nominations, while this can be done online, there remains an option for members to complete a hard copy form to be submitted at CPF Service Centres as well.
Further, it would also be preferrable if multilingual support can be provided on the LPA Form itself, while also providing a guide in all four official languages to walk Donors through the process of registering an LPA. Looking through the guides provided by the OPG in its current website, I note that the LPA brochure, guides for Caregivers, Donees and Deputies are all available in Chinese, Malay, and Tamil, while arguably the most important guide of all, the guide to the LPA is only available in English.
I recognise that the MSF will be assisting those less comfortable with digital services, by leveraging on community touchpoints such as the Citizen Connect Centres (CCCs) and the Integrated Public Service Centre (IPSC) at Our Tampines Hub. Yet even at the CCCs, my understanding is that staff will be assisting residents with performing Government transactions online. As it is an important document to make, elderly residents who may not be comfortable with digital forms, especially one in English, may not wish to complete the LPA form all at one go. As friendly as the CCC staff may be, elderly residents may also wish to consult their children or other relatives whom they trust to get a second opinion on the LPA, and a physical form would better facilitate this whole process.
Further, while I strongly believe that an LPA is important for adults of all ages, close to 80% of LPA donors from 2014 to 2019 are aged 50 and above, while 55% of LPA donors are aged 60 and above. The importance of having hardcopies and multi-lingual support is thus even more important, given the demographic of LPA donors today.
Another interesting statistic which I observed is that from 2014 to 2019, female LPA donors have consistently outnumbered male LPA donors by a ratio of about 1.4 to 1. I wonder, if the Ministry has conducted any study into why this is the case, and whether efforts can also be made to encourage more men to make an LPA?
Mr Speaker, let me end my speech in Mandarin please.
尤其是考虑到从 2014 年到 2019 年，近百分之八十的授权人年龄在 50 岁及以上，而 百分之五十五的授权人年龄在 60 岁及以上的当儿，拥有纸质的持久授权书申请表格和多语言支持的重要性显得更加重要。