Singapore – The Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) released their take on the 2020 Budget and proposed their plans to “Take Singapore Forward” by addressing the cost of living, foreign PMETs and the CPF.
On Wednesday (Mar 4), opposition party SDP, represented by Paul Tambyah (Chairman), Bryan Lim (Treasurer), Khung Wai Yeen (CEC Member) and Alfred Tan (Member), held a Facebook live forum to share its alternative Budget proposals with long term sustainability in mind.
They opened the forum by stating that the 2020 Budget was short on bold moves and promises, nor did it address the country’s problems in a changing world and described it to be more of an election budget.
Cost of living
Mr Lim began by illustrating the current state of the country, wherein 85 per cent of Singaporeans have indicated that they don’t have enough savings for retirement. Meanwhile, six out of 10 Singaporeans don’t feel comfortable about their retirement plans. He added that half of the households from the working middle class live from paycheck to paycheck and are one major bill away from financial ruin.
The party then proposed cancelling plans for increasing the Goods and Services Tax (GST) to nine per cent even after 2021 on the basis that the Government has assured the country of enough funds for increased spending until 2020.
Furthermore, there was a S$19.1 billion budget surplus from 2016 to 2018, said Mr Lim. The S$10.9 billion budget deficit for this financial year still leaves an S$8.2 billion balance, he added.
The SDP also suggested an increase in GST for luxury items to 10 per cent or more and a removal of the tax on basic items instead.
Curbing foreign PMETs
The SDP noted a lack in addressing the aspects of employment such as the country’s dependency on foreign workers with the 2020 Budget. It begged to ask “whether our born and bred Singaporeans are lacking in the skill sets required to take up the available jobs,” said Mr Yeen, who handled the topic.
He said that “The key here is to ensure that we allow true talents into our force while not forcing our local workforce into accepting lower pay” because it’s cheaper to hire foreign workers with similar qualifications.
The SDP proposed a point system to be implemented wherein the candidates’ qualifications are assessed to ensure that only foreigners with the right skill sets and competencies which are not available or are in short supply are hired. This would complement the local workforce and create a balance in the employment industry.
Retirement financial adequacy of Singaporeans
“The SDP is disappointed that the Government has not taken the opportunity to address and repair the CPF (Central Provident Fund) at this time of stress and anxiety,” began Mr Tan. “Recent research suggested that a minimum of S$1,339 per month is required to live adequately during a Singaporean’s golden years.”
The latest household expenditures survey indicated that retiring households living in public flats receive S$1,522 a month for their retirement needs, said Mr Tan. “Only S$280 was attributed to CPF payouts, while their children and relatives contributed a significant portion of the income.”
The party explained that a financial strain on the familial system is created when retirees are dependent on their working children who have families of their own to support.
“The CPF aimed to provide retirement financial adequacy during one’s golden years “, but it failed its primary purpose,” said Mr Tan. “It’s a constant reminder to Singaporeans that the Government has not stood by on its promise to fully return the savings of Singaporeans when they reach 55 years old.”
He then urged everyone to “get back to the basics because our Government has a knack to over-complicate things and often gets itself entangled with the peripherals.” The CPF was meant to ensure someone could retire comfortably with adequate savings and not use up their funds on highly-priced HDB flats which are subject to fluctuating market prices, said Mr Tan.
The SDP also accepted questions from media and netizens, some of which were on the country’s high medical costs and reserves.
Mr Tambyah, on the topic of the healthcare system noted that Singapore has some of the world’s best healthcare professionals, tremendous resources and great infrastructure. “But the financing is all messed up,” he said. With so many healthcare schemes that only account for less than 15 per cent of total healthcare expenditures, “where does the rest come from?” he asked rhetorically.
Mr Tambyah explained that the balance was covered by Government subsidies, employer-funded healthcare and out-of-pocket payments. “The last two are escalating at extremely high rates,” he added, which justifies the need for a single simplified system to be implemented.
On the topic of reserves, Mr Tambyah reiterated that the SDP was not asking for the Government to tap the reserves but to ask for transparency from the Net Investment Returns Contributions (NRIC) so that Singaporeans know where their money is going and what are the returns on investments. Given that the country has no natural resources, the reserves are from the hard-earned savings of our parents and grandparents for rainy days, said Mr Tambyah.
Watch the full forum below:
Budget 2020: SDP's Plan to Take Singapore Forward#SDPNOW #TheWayForward
Posted by Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) on Wednesday, March 4, 2020