SINGAPORE - The creation of the private pension plans (PPPs) was originally viewed as a means of boosting Singapore's efforts to attract fund managers to the city-state as part of a wider effort to make it a regional financial hub to compete with Hong Kong.
Three years ago a government led economic restructuring panel recommended that Singaporeans be allowed to withdraw money from the Central Provident Fund (CPF) and invest their retirement savings through privately managed pension plans to help boost returns.
But Ng Eng-Hen, the minister of manpower, recently told parliament that PPPs would be “shelved” after consultations with industry players and CPF members. Several years of poor performance have undermined investor confidence in fund managers, who have blamed the high distribution costs for reducing returns from unit trusts.
The decision did not surprise some fund managers after the government postponed the introduction of PPPs last year. They have complained that high distribution costs have put a stop on the growth of local retail funds because distribution is concentrated among Singapore’s three banks and a few foreign banks. Another criticism was that PPP’s offered little economies of scale needed to cut costs.
Fund managers lobbied the government to put a cap on distribution fees or promote financial liberalisation so that more sale channels are available. Some fund managers have suggested that the PPP government funds were injected into PPPs in the early stages to achieve economies of scale. Another suggestion is that the CPF becomes directly involved by hiring managers and handling asset allocation.
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