Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong confirmation yesterday that higher taxes are inevitable has drawn the ire of the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP), which has called out the ruling party for denying that taxes would be hiked during the elections, only to raise taxes after the elections were won.
When claims that the government would raise taxes erupted in 2015, a month before that year’s General Election, the Ministry of Finance (MOF) was quick to refute the claims, saying that they had no basis.
Posting a statement on the matter online, MOF had reiterated Deputy Prime Minister (DPM) Tharman Shanmugaratnam’s earlier assertion that increased spending planned for the rest of the decade is sufficiently provided for by measures that the Government had already taken.
The SDP said that the DPM should be “up front with the people and stop denying that our warnings of the government raising taxes have no basis,” in an online statement today.
We re-publish the opposition party’s full statement here:
During the general elections in 2015, Mr Tharman Shanmugaratnam denied the SDP’s warnings that the government would raise the GST.
At that time, he said that “there is no basis” to claims that the GST would be increased to fund increased public spending.
But Mr Lee Hsien Loong finally admitted yesterday at the PAP conference that it was inevitable that taxes would have to be raised to fund government spending.
While the PAP has so far not raised the GST after the elections, it has increased taxes and fees for a slew of items.
In 2016, the government increased carpark fees by as much as 27 percent. It has also raised ERP charges for several gantries as well as added new gantries on the expressways.
The government also announced plans to restrict vehicle growth rate to zero percent, thus ensuring that COE prices would skyrocket. It also has indicated that bus and train fares would go up. In 2016, it raised taxi-licence fees.
This year, it raised water prices by an alarming 30 percent.
PAP-run town councils also upped Service & Conservancy Charges by as much as $17 depending on the flat-type.
In addition, immediately after the GE in 2015 the PAP raised fees for its kindergartens and childcare centres. It increased the fees again in 2017.
Such hikes continue to pile pressure on Singaporeans who are already feeling the financial pain from the high cost of living and a slowing economy in Singapore.
During the Buklit Batok by-election last year, Minister Shanmugaratnam also accused the SDP of spreading “fear and alarm” through our alternative policy proposals.
Referring to the SDP’s call for universal healthcare and unemployment insurance, the DPM said that he was “troubled” by these populist policy proposals and that the SDP should tell the people that these programmes are not free.
The PAP has the habit of criticising the SDP during the elections and then quietly adopting our ideas thereafter. For example, the government introduced the Returner Work Trial this year which is essentially a retrenchment benefits scheme similar to the SDP’s that we proposed in 2010.
Also in 2012, the SDP proposed that our “individual health care risks be pooled” in a nationalised healthcare insurance programme. Three years later, the government introduced its Medishield Life, saying that “everyone shares in the national risk pool”.
Not only has the PAP copied our ideas, it now wants to increase taxes to pay for the programmes as stated by PM Lee in his party speech yesterday.
So the next time Mr Tharman accuses the SDP of proposing populist policies, he should also tell the public that his party is bankrupt of ideas and has to adopt the SDP’s proposals.
He should also be up front with the people and stop denying that our warnings of the government raising taxes have no basis.
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