The Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) has expressed opposition to Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat’s recent argument that the early unveiling of the impending Goods and Services Tax (GST) hike is an example of the Government’s integrity.
As he delivered Budget 2018 last February, Mr Heng confirmed that the GST will increase by two per cent, from the current seven per cent to nine per cent, and that the tax hike will be implemented sometime between 2021 and 2025, in a progressive way.
DPM Heng, who is widely expected to become Singapore’s fourth Prime Minister after the next election, touched on the GST hike and why he brought it up when he did as he addressed ruling party members and activists at the People’s Action Party (PAP) Convention on Sunday (Nov 10).
The Minister, who also serves as Finance Minister and the PAP’s first assistant secretary-general, said that many people have asked him not to talk about the GST hike anymore and noted that news of the tax increase was met with some unhappiness. Despite this, he said: “But if I don’t bring it up, the opposition parties definitely will, so it’s better that you hear it from me.”
He added that the Government could have waited for the elections to be over but “that would not be the honest thing to do” and said, “The responsible thing to do is to be upfront, and tell people that it will happen. This is what integrity means. We don’t hide from difficult truths.”
Stressing the need for the GST hike, DPM Heng said: “Our needs are growing on many fronts, such as in healthcare and preschool education. The world is also becoming more uncertain, and it is wise to be prepared.”
Promising that the Government will help cushion Singaporeans as the transition takes effect, the PM-designate also took a dig at the opposition and said: “We know that Singaporeans are concerned given the current economic outlook, so we want to assure you that there will be help during the transition, so that Singaporeans need not worry, or be riled up by the opposition who want to find something to get people to be angry.”
Responding to Mr Heng’s comments, the SDP asked the DPM to demonstrate the integrity he believes the early unveiling of the GST hike signifies by disclosing how much Singapore has in the reserves. Asserting that the GST hike is coming at a time “when the government does not need the money,” the party said on Wednesday (13 Nov):
“DPM Heng Swee Keat has brought up the GST hike ahead of the General Elections. He has claimed that it is the “responsible thing to do” and “this is what integrity means.” He also announced “We don’t hide from difficult truths.”
“Would DPM Heng be willing to demonstrate his integrity by disclosing how much the Government has in Reserves? Over the past 3 years, the PAP Government has accumulated $19 billion in budget surplus. How much more billions or trillions do they have?
“The real difficult truth is that they are raising the GST when the government does not need the money. The real difficult truth is that GST hits poor & middle-class harder than the rich. The real difficult truth is that the GST cushion is temporary whereas the hike is forever.”
The opposition party, which has been vigorously working the ground in preparation for the looming election, earlier promised that it would oppose the GST hike, the retention of the Central Provident Fund system as well as a potential 10 million population target, if elected into Parliament.
DPM Heng Swee Keat has brought up the GST hike ahead of the General Elections. He has claimed that it is the…