It’s been hard trying to focus on the Singapore Government’s $8 billion Pioneer Generation health package this past week. Coverage has been about 98 per cent propaganda and two per cent uncritical commentary in major media. A fairly comprehensive counter proposal finally emerged a week after the Pioneer Generation package (PGP) and other Budget proposals were laid out in Parliament, but it didn’t come from either of the opposition parties that are represented in the House. It came from the National Solidarity Party (NSP) but the 1,900-word presentation was given only an inside bottom corner page coverage in The Straits Times, despite its fairly substantive content. Hope our MPs will remove their blinkers and read this to prepare themselves for the Budget Debate that starts today.
So here’s what the NSP thought of the PAP’s seeming generosity:
1. The PGP is long overdue.
2. The PGP only reinforces the transactional value in our society… A kind and gracious society takes care of its elderly because they are our elderly, regardless what they had given when they were younger.
3. We have missed the opportunity to lay the foundation … to shape a nation which is founded not only on economic success, but also on values. Our nation is almost 50 years old. We should aspire for higher ideals.
4. The government could have budgeted more than $8 billion, given that it has managed to secure more income than the anticipated $1.16 billion deficit, going by the surpluses of the two previous years. Cash transfers to the elderly are widely acknowledged to be one of the most effective tools to reduce old age poverty and invest in human capital development. NSP proposes that the Government considers an inflation-indexed social pension scheme for the benefit of our senior citizens.
5. For elderly Singaporeans wishing to hire foreign domestic workers (FDW) to support them to age in place, NSP proposes that the FDW levy ($265) be waived for them.
6. On healthcare, NSP proposed that Singapore’s hospital bed per 1000 total population be raised to at least 3.0 per 1000 total population from the government’s anticipated 2.27 in 2020, and that more government polyclinics be built and stay open for longer hours.
7. The NSP wants to see the nationalisation of all kindergarten education and that this be made compulsory for all children.
8. To improve our falling fertility rate, NSP proposes that the tuition fees of local tertiary education institutions be 50% subsidised for Singaporean second children and be fully subsidised for Singaporean third and subsequent children.
9. To deal with over-crowding on buses, NSP proposes that Government further enhances its initiative to tap on private bus operators. The Government should design a fair and robust licensing regime for such operators to ply the routes.
10. NSP suggests the Government reduces red-tape for companies to claim their productivity and innovation credit payments and introduce a national database tracking industrial and retail rents not only to enhance transparency, but also to have a moderating effect on the rising rental costs. Also, for the purposes of transparency, NSP proposes that capital receipts, which include revenue from sales of land and capital goods and other capital receipts, be included in the Budget as a revenue item.
11. It also asked that the Goods and Services Tax be cut to 5.5% (from 7%); that the Certificate of Entitlement System for motor vehicles be reviewed; that top marginal personal income tax rate be raised to 22% for those earning above $500,000; to re-instate Estate Duty at 5% for total assets (without differentiating between residential properties or other assets) between $10m to $15m, and 10% for amounts above that; and casino tax rates raised to 22.5% for non-premium players and 7.5% for premium players.
12. Finally, and optimistically, NSP called on the Government to affirmatively promote and support the growth of Singaporean-run, Singaporean-registered non-government organisations and other cause-based associations by offering or enabling them the use of office space at free or subsidised rents. This gesture will be a sign of the coming of age of Singapore society, it said and one which will auger well for the future of Singapore.