Two ruling party parliamentarians earned the ire of Singaporeans yesterday when they suggested that the government could introduce mechanisms to make it easier for people to donate their SG Bonus to charity.
All Singaporeans aged 21 and above will receive an “hongbao” of $300, $200, and $100 depending on their income, this year. The government will spend a total of 700 million on this one-off “SG bonus”, which comes from the exceptional FY2017 budget surplus of $9.6 billion.
At the Budget debate yesterday, Sembawang GRC MP Lim Wee Kiak suggested that the government could introduce mechanisms that make it more straightforward for people to donate the SG bonus they will receive at the end of this year, if they so wish.
Suggesting that the Government could consider matching each donation dollar-for-dollar to encourage the people to give, Lim said:
“I know of schools who encourage students to donate an ang pow during the Chinese New Year period to the school welfare fund so students from needy families can benefit for the fund.
“In the same spirit of caring and sharing, I like to propose that the Government facilitates giving by providing an easy option for Singaporeans who are keen to donated their SG bonus ang pow to local charities like the Community Chest or President’s Challenge 2018.”
Jalan Besar GRC MP Denise Phua echoed Lim’s sentiments and called on the government to implement such mechanisms before the SG bonus is credited to the people:
“A S$100 SG Bonus hongbao for some could mean an additional dinner out but to another, is cash flow to purchase that milk powder or diapers for the baby or disabled elderly parent.”
While these suggestion may have been well-intentioned, they certainly rubbed some Singaporeans the wrong way.
Netizens responding to the MPs’ speeches called on them to lead by example and have their salaries slashed before they ask the people to give the “miserable” SG bonus they will be receiving:
Some netizens also pointed out that it is curious that Lim Wee Kiak is making such a suggestion, given the fact that the politician once defended ministerial pay by linking it with the “dignity” of politicians. He had said in 2011:
“If the annual salary of the Minister of Information, Communication and Arts is only $500,000, it may pose some problems when he discuss policies with media CEOs who earn millions of dollars because they need not listen to the minister’s ideas and proposals. Hence, a reasonable payout will help to maintain a bit of dignity.”
Lim subsequently withdrew his comments, acknowledging that it is “is inappropriate and incorrect” to imply that a minister will lose face is his pay is low: “I withdraw those remarks and apologise for making them. Dignity cannot be and must not be measured purely in monetary terms.”
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