In a bid to raise more taxes and cash in on the ageing population, Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong said that he will be turning neighbourhood school sites into retirement villages:
“Their location within established housing estates will enable residents to age in residential surroundings. Their relatively large site area can accommodate a significant number of housing units and common spaces, allowing residents to interact with one another and develop a sense of community. However, there are also costs involved to rejuvenate the ageing vacant school properties and reconfigure them for housing purposes.”
The retirement village idea proposed by PAP MP Murali Pillai would charge each Singaporean elderly S$3,500 a month, based off the government’s first retirement village, St Bernadette Lifestyle Village. The retirement village would expect to rake in S$10 million in revenue a year, compared to spending S$2 million a year maintaining existing neighbourhood schools.
A total of 25 neighbourhood schools – 14 secondary, 4 JCs and 7 primary – were closed down in the past 2 years. Falling birth rate and demand was quoted as official reasons, but the elite schools were unaffected.
PAP MP Murali Pillai defended his idea when interviewed by state media Straits Times, lying that there would be “cost-savings” when a nursing home charge – as low as S$1,200 – less than half the price of the government’s retirement village at S$3,500 a month.
“Cost savings are the main reason behind the idea, saying that when developers build retirement homes, the higher capital expenditure is passed on to seniors.”
PAP MP Tin Pei Ling supported the profitable retirement village but she was incoherent in her explanation:
“The design also has to consider: How do we ensure the elderly are not living in an isolated sub-community and are integrated into the wider community?”