WHY BUDGET GOODIES KEPT SIMPLE
Minister responds to suggestions to take specific family circumstances into account
by Neo Chai Chin
SINGAPORE – Suggestions to further improve the lot of Singaporeans came thick and fast at the first ministerial community dialogue held post-Budget.
Instead of basing growth dividends on the annual value of Singaporeans’ homes, how about giving more to recipients who look after their aged parents, even if they live in bigger flats? Should seniors taking care of their grandchildren be given Workfare bonuses? Could earned income relief be increased?
Information, Communications and the Arts Minister Lui Tuck Yew tackled these questions in a dialogue when he visited Tampines West, two days after Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam announced that eight in 10 Singaporeans will get S$600 to S$800 in growth dividends as part of the Grow and Share package.
While Mr Lui agreed that the current payout criteria, which is based on income and type of home, “isn’t always the best in terms of being as targeted as possible”, it kept things simple and understandable.
Rather than the Government run the risk of being too intrusive when distributing Budget goodies, by inquiring about family situations, those with more specific needs can approach their local constituencies for help, he added.
Budget 2011′s measures for the elderly, low-income and sandwiched class did not go unnoticed by dialogue participants. But a Tampines West resident asked if seniors looking after their grandchildren could also receive the Workfare bonus – amounting to 50 per cent more Workfare Income Supplement payouts for work done last year and 25 per cent more for work done this year and next.
Mr Lui noted that while there was a way to get around the rules – for seniors to declare themselves self-employed and make contributions to their Medisave – the “larger question” was whether “we cheapen love and care and affection by putting a price to it”.
The Government helps the elderly where it can – through Medisave top-ups, for instance – without upsetting “social norms and long-standing values”, he said.
On the issue of raising earned income relief – which now ranges from S$1,000 to S$6,000, depending on age or disability – Mr Lui said it would be considered.
He said, however, that income tax rebates and the lower income tax rates announced by Mr Shanmugaratnam would be “far more beneficial”. Said Mr Lui: “My feel is that is probably better than whatever changes (the Finance Minister) can make to earned income relief.”
Asked by reporters after the dialogue about the impact that the abolition of television and radio licence fees would have on public service broadcasting, Mr Lui said the Government would “make up” the sum of money previously collected from the fees, which was about S$120 million annually.
Seven to eight of the top-10-rated programmes now are Public Service Broadcast funded and the Government will continue its support of such programmes, he said.
Source : TODAYonline – MediaCorp Press Ltd’s copyright
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