SINGAPORE: Members of Parliament raised a wide range of concerns on Monday (Feb 28), kicking off an annual marathon debate on Singapore’s Budget statement for the new financial year starting on April 1.
Over the course of seven hours, more than 20 MPs delivered their speeches on the first day of the Budget debate, which typically runs for two weeks.
Among the issues raised: The need for the goods and services tax (GST) hike and whether a higher percentage of Singapore’s reserves could be used for recurrent spending.
While the majority expressed their support for this year’s Budget, opposition parties The Workers’ Party (WP) and the Progress Singapore Party (PSP) objected to the Budget as they disagreed with the government’s decision to raise the GST.
Here’s what some MPs said:
ON TAXES AND THE GST HIKE
“The Workers’ Party position is that the Government need not raise the GST. There are other options for raising revenue … The Workers’ Party has previously raised several proposals in this House, on both taxes as well as adjustments to the reserves framework. These options do not constitute a raiding of the reserves as the PAP enthusiastically and inaccurately portrays.” – Leader of the Opposition Pritam Singh (WP-Aljunied)
“Some high-income earners may tend to feel that they have worked very hard for their success and that it’s not fair to have to share with others who did not work as hard as they did. I do agree that nothing is absolutely fair and it’s never possible to completely justify who should be paying more or less taxes. However, it is important to cultivate the growth mindset that those who can afford to pay a little more taxes, should do so.” – Ms Poh Li San (PAP- Sembawang)
“There is a risk that inflationary expectations have become unmoored from the traditional 2 per cent target held by most advanced economies worldwide, and is now permanently higher by up to half a percentage point, compared to before the pandemic. If this turns out to be the new reality, then rolling out a GST hike at this time will only add fuel to the inflation flame, which is already starting to burn uncomfortably hot.” – Mr Jamus Lim (WP-Sengkang)
“There is often this argument that raising income or wealth taxes may diminish our competitiveness; or that wealth is mobile and can easily be moved to a jurisdiction with no or low taxes. Yes, we have to be watchful of these possibilities but we should also not “under-price” ourselves … We cannot just count on low taxes or lowest costs as a way to attract investments and talents. It is not sustainable.” – Mr Liang Eng Hwa (PAP- Bukit Panjang)
ON HELPING MIDDLE-INCOME HOUSEHOLDS
“Middle-income households also require more help, not just the low-income. The last two years have not been easy for everyone. While I am happy to hear that we will uplift lower- wage workers by extending the Progressive Wage Model to security officers, drivers and workers in the retail and food services sector, what are we doing to boost the wages of our middle-income workers?” – Mr Saktiandi Supaat (PAP- Bishan-Toa Payoh)
ON GOVT SPENDING
“Doing more for our people doesn’t necessarily mean we should spend more. Instead, we should challenge ourselves and think hard about what we should spend less on. This is quite a contrarian view, as the Budget is a time when we discuss how Government will increase spending in various areas. The hard truth is that while it is good to have everything, our resources are finite. We should reduce non-essential, duplicative and non-strategic initiatives.” – Mr Yip Hon Weng (PAP- Yio Chu Kang)
ON THE LEADERSHIP TRANSITION
“To make Singapore’s long-term plans work, such as those contained in this year’s Budget, Singapore must have a long-term leadership succession plan … The ruling party of the day, that is the PAP, must swiftly choose the next PM and next the DPMs and give them as long a runway as our current PM can manage.” – Mr Christopher de Souza (PAP Holland-Bukit Timah)
ON CHARTING THE WAY FORWARD
“Going through the storm is one thing. Building back up is where we are now, and we must not fall into potholes of narcissism, discouragement, and pessimism … As we learn to live with COVID-19, we must learn fast to tackle this next pandemic of climate change that is already upon us. We must take responsibility for the development of our own skills, leveraging the support that the Government is providing. ” – Nominated MP Janet Ang.
“I am optimistic about the odds of our success, not least because our youth are bursting at the seams with an overwhelming sense of civic virtue, purpose and pride. In more ways than one, they are the reason we are on this sustainability journey … Our youth are hopeful, and they have faith that we will succeed. We must not fail them.” – Nominated MP Koh Lian Pin