Thanks to rumours of Budget 2019 being a pre-election announcement, Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat had every Singaporean’s full attention for 2 hours yesterday afternoon.
The Budget 2019 measures focus on “building a strong, united Singapore”, with Mr Heng citing 5 long-term domestic challenges to address: ageing, social mobility, inequality, economic transformation, and climate change.
But let’s cut to the chase… we got money take not???!
Singapore Budget 2019 Summary – 10 key takeaways
Well, not all the nitty-gritties have been released – because everything also “to be further discussed at the COS” – but yes, the bicentennial Budget 2019 seems pretty generous… Especially for the deserving seniors of the Merdeka Generation.
Here’s everything you need to know in a nutshell.
1. Bicentennial bonuses – up to $300 GST vouchers & additional 10% WIS
Let’s start with the good stuff – the Bicentennial Bonus angbao from the gahmen!
The most talked about one is the yearly GST voucher, which is a permanent scheme started in 2012 to help lower- and middle-income families with the rising GST costs. This year, about 1.4 million Singaporeans will receive up to $300 in GST voucher-cash (also called Bicentennial Payment).
Those eligible for Workfare Income Supplement (WIS) payments will also receive a Workfare Bicentennial Bonus – they’ll receive an additional 10% of WIS in cash, with a minimum payment of $100. This will be for work done in 2018.
Additionally, there will be $200m set aside for the Bicentennial Community Fund, with dollar-for-dollar matching for donations made to IPCs in FY2019.
2. 50% Income tax rebate for all, but capped at $200
The handouts don’t stop there. For FY2019, the government will also be giving back 50% of our personal income taxes.
But before all you high-flying bankers and lawyers have your eyes going “ka-ching”, the rebate is capped at $200. This is so that it will mostly benefit the middle-income group, not you.
You have enough money.
3. HDB Service & Conservancy Charges (S&CC) rebates of 1.5 to 3.5 months
Woah, this one really got me cheering. Not because the HDB service & conservancy charges are super expensive, but because I have yet to set up GIRO and so payments are a pain.
I’m happy that I’m at least getting some money back for all the trouble.
For this, there are about 930,000 eligible households, and they will each receive between 1.5 to 3.5 months of S&CC rebates.
The eligibility criteria have not been released, but we will update it once the news gets out.
4. For seniors: $1,500 CareShield incentive, $100 PAssion Silver top-up & Merdeka Generation package enhancements
The real winners of Budget 2019 are the seniors born between 1 Jan 1950 and 31 Dec 1959 – the Merdeka Generation. Here’s a list of the Merdeka Generation Package (MGP) improvements:
5% to 10% off MediShield Life premiums
First of all, seniors will get increased MediShield subsidies. The subsidy will be 5% until seniors hit 75, when it will increase to 10%. For lower and middle-income seniors, this is on top of whatever existing subsidies they may already have.
$1,500 incentive if they join CareShield Life (available from 2021)
If they join CareShield Life, they will also receive $1,500. The newly announced $1,500 is on top of the existing $2,500 participation incentive – that’s $4,000 in total!
$100 Top-up to PAssion Silver cards & $200 Yearly Medisave top-up from 2019 to 2023
Eligible seniors will also receive a yearly $200 Medisave top-up (2019 to 2023) and a one-time $100 PAssion Silver card top-up. The PAssion Silver card money can be used to pay for public transport, activities at community clubs, and more.
Higher subsidies under the community health assist scheme (CHAS)
Lastly, the Merdeka Generation’s CHAS subsidies will be higher than that of the blue CHAS cardholders, and will be given to everyone in the Merdeka Generation (regardless of income). They will also get an extra 25% discount off polyclinic and specialist outpatient clinic bills.
Eligible seniors will be notified by April. For those slightly younger (age 50 and up in 2019) and who do not get Merdeka or Pioneer Generation benefits, you will receive a Medisave top-up of $100/year for 5 years.
5. $1,000 CPF top-up for seniors with <$60k savings
Additionally, seniors age 50 to 64 with under $60,000 of retirement savings will receive a generous $1,000 CPF top-up.
It will go into their Special Account (age 50 to 54) or Retirement Account (age 55 to 64). This is on top of any other targeted benefits like the GST vouchers, Merdeka Generation Package, and WIS enhancements.
6. Higher subsidies for under the community health assist scheme (CHAS)
The Merdeka Generation aren’t the only ones getting CHAS subsidy perks.
CHAS subsidies at GP clinics will now cover all Singaporeans with chronic conditions, regardless of income. Orange cardholders (lower- to middle-income Singaporeans) used to only get subsidies for chronic conditions, but they will now be covered for common illnesses as well.
The CHAS subsidy for complex conditions will also be increased.
7. $150 Edusave & $500 PSEA top-ups for students
If we take care of the sick and elderly, we must also take care of the youth, right?
Right! But if you’re a “gi-na” hoping for more pocket money, you’re not getting it. You will, however, get an extra $500 in your post-secondary education account (students age 17 to 20). Primary and secondary students will get $150 topped up into their Edusave accounts instead.
8. Increase in diesel duties, but up to 100% road tax rebates and lower annual special tax
Drivers take note, Mr Heng also announced a 100% increase in excise duties for diesel. It’s going up from 10c to 20c per litre, which is quite significant.
To help cushion the impact, the government will 1) permanently reduce the annual Special Tax on diesel cars and taxis (by $100 and $850 respectively), and 2) give out road tax rebates for diesel buses and goods vehicle from 1 Aug 2019 to 31 Jul 2022.
It will be a full rebate in the first year (100%), 75% rebate in the second year, and 50% in the final year.
9. GST increase to 9%, plus tightened GST import relief for duty-free shopping
Did you think the government can afford to give without taking? No such thing.
As announced in Budget 2018, the local GST will increase by 2 percentage points, to 9%. It’s not explicitly stated when, but it is expected to take effect between 2021 to 2025.
Understandably, everyone is super sian about this, but well, that’s what the GST voucher is actually for, right? (Yup. It’s not extra shopping money!)
In addition, the GST import relief for travellers will be tightened – effective TODAY (19 Feb 2019). If you spend <48 hours overseas, the relief is reduced from $150 to $100. If you spend >48 hours overseas, the relief is reduced from $600 to $500.
There’s more bad news – the alcohol duty-free allowance has also been lowered. It’s now 2 litres instead of 3 litres. Thankfully, that only kicks in from 1 Apr 2019, so you have a few more weeks to chiong.
10. Changes in foreign manpower policies – DRC reduced to 35% by 2021
Thanks to the rapid S Pass growth – it’s the highest it’s been in 5 years! – the government will be adjusting the workforce quota in the service sector.
The dependency ratio ceiling (DRC) is currently 40%, but it is to be cut to 38% from 1 Jan 2020, and 35% from 1 Jan 2021. The sub-DRC will also be reduced in 2 steps: 15% to 13% from 1 Jan 2020, and 13% to 10% on 1 Jan 2021.
See lah, every day complain about foreign workers. Whether this new measure is good or bad, you decide.
On the surface, it may look like a measure to give Singaporeans more opportunities, but if not enough locals are willing to take up service jobs, it may just lead to higher prices and more businesses folding.
What do you think of the Budget 2019? Tell us in the comments below!