Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat made the Singapore Budget 2019 announcement on Monday (18 Feb 2019), and it is all anyone can talk about this week.
But what exactly are Singaporeans saying? Let’s take a peek into the deep, dark world of the internet.
3 Things Singaporeans are concerned post-Budget 2019
It seems that many Singaporeans are a tad bit disappointed… but only because it’s not quite the generous pre-election budget they were expecting.
(For the record, this is what Mr Heng has to say about that:“If they mean that they are very happy with the Budget then I’ll say that is good, but I don’t plan on that basis.”)
Here are 3 key areas that Singaporeans are worried about.
1. The rising cost of living in Singapore (GST hike, doubled diesel duties)
The Budget 2019 announced that a lot of things will get more expensive in the years to come.
As announced last year, the local GST is set to increase by 2 percentage points (7% to 9%) some time between 2021 and 2025. The other tax increase is on diesel duties, which actually doubled from 10c per litre to 20c per litre.
Singaporeans see this as a general indicator of well, everything getting more expensive in Singapore.
In theory, yes. But some Singaporeans are complaining that it’s not enough, and that the freebies are not proportionate to the price increase.
It’s even worse for those who earn salaries that are “not here, not there”.
This Facebook user points out that there are a lot of Singaporeans caught in the middle. They earn a decent keep (so they’re not entitled to most government subsidies), but they don’t earn enough to not feel the pinch of the general price hikes.
Referencing the generous CPF top-ups and upgrades to the Merdeka Generation Package, she also brings up the conversation about the government “buying elderly votes”.
2. The supposed measures to “help” seniors to “earn more, save more”
But while some Singaporeans are unhappy that it’s “only the old people” that are benefitting from this Budget 2019, others are concerned that these measures are not as attractive as they seem.
Mr Heng talked about how Budget 2019 aims to help seniors work longer to “earn more, save more”. The tripartite workgroup is reviewing retirement and re-employment age policies, as well as the CPF contribution rates of seniors.
The Special Employment Credit (SEC) and Additional SEC scheme will also be extended until 31 Dec 2020.
These schemes are meant incentivise employers to hire older workers… But Singaporeans are not convinced, and are worried about the lack of opportunities.
What about the generous Merdeka Generation Package then? The enhancements include PAssion Silver card, CPF & MediSave top-ups, subsidised outpatient care and discounts off CareShield and MediShield Life premiums. Not bad what, hor?
Well, people are saying that a lot of these “incentives” are actually in the form of subsidies, which means these elderly still have to pay quite a bit for healthcare, just less. For instance, the $2,500 + $1,500 cash incentive for CareShield is not a lump sum payment. The $4,000 is a $400 subsidy spread across 10 years.
This means that it’s likely that a lot of the $6.1b will never be spent, bringing up the issue of touchy issue of transparency.
3. The tightening of foreign worker quota policies for the service sector
I don’t know about you, but almost every other day, I hear xenophobic Singaporeans complain about foreign workers overtaking our little red dot. Online, I read cutting remarks about “the PRC salesgirl” or “that Filipino telemarketer”.
So with Mr Heng announcing a two-step strategy to eventually reduce the dependency ratio ceiling (DRC) from 40% to 35% and the sub-DRC from 15% to 13% to 10% by 1 Jan 2021, Singaporeans should be happy, right?
Perhaps the gossipy aunties are happy, but business owners? Not so. The problem is that the quota reduction is only in the service sector, which is… uhm, generally quite unpopular among Singaporeans.
Some say it’s because it’s too “unglam”…
Others say it’s because of the expensive cost of living in Singapore.
Plus, there seems a slight contradiction in the manpower policies: On one hand, the government has reduced the limit for S Pass holders in the service sector. On the other hand, Singaporeans are encouraged to improve themselves with digital skills by taking bitcoin courses and the likes.
Uh… Okay. That leaves who to do the blue collar jobs?
Possible consequences of these measures include companies being forced to cut back on manpower and/or go digital. And it’s not exactly purely good news even if businesses do manage to hire more Singaporeans anyway, because that means higher salaries and thus, higher prices.
So yes, other than cheeky remarks about “deep thrusts” and excessive page-flipping…
… Some major post-Budget 2019 concerns have surfaced.
What do you think of these Budget 2019 conversations? Tell us in the comments below.