GST Hike: Why Singaporeans can still have a say

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By Augustine Low

The delay in the implementation of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) is one that is well thought out and calibrated by the government. But Singaporeans do not have to take it lying down – there is recourse to call the shots.

By announcing that GST will go up to 9% sometime between 2021 and 2025, the PAP leaves itself some wiggle room. Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat also said that it would probably happen sooner rather than later during the timeframe, so we should take him at his word for it.

What are the implications?

For Singaporeans, it means that the GST hike will only take place after the next general election, which will most likely be held in 2019 or 2020.

Now, supposing the Opposition were to make the impending GST hike a key election issue, and the election results do not go the way of the PAP, would it still go ahead and implement the GST hike in 2021?

It would be politically treacherous. Chances are the GST hike would be deferred to later or even postponed indefinitely.

But if the reverse were to happen, and the PAP romps home handsomely in the next GE, just like in GE 2015, then there would be 100% certainty that the GST hike will take place right on the money in 2021. It would be seen as mandate sought and mandate given.

The PAP must have deliberated and worked out all the implications before it came up with the delayed GST plan. For sure, there would be plenty of sweeteners between now and the next GE to win over hearts and minds.

We have often heard of delayed gratification but delayed pain is seldom heard of. In this case, the PAP is promising delayed pain, and it is pain that Singaporeans can still avoid, if they play it right.

The PAP has showed its hand. Now it is up to Singaporeans to decide what card they want to play.