SINGAPORE: The Government will provide additional support of more than S$850 million this year to help households with their expenses, said Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat.
In his Budget statement delivered on Monday (Feb 20), Mr Heng outlined a number of measures to this end.
PERMANENT INCREASE IN U-SAVE REBATES
In order to help households offset some of the increase in water prices, Mr Heng announced a permanent increase in the GST Voucher – Utilities-Save (U-Save) rebate for eligible HDB households.
One of three components under the GST Voucher scheme, U-Save allows those living in one- and two-room HDB flats to offset about three to four months of utilities bills, while those living in three- and four-room HDB flats may offset about one to two months' worth of such bills on average.
The increases range from S$40 to S$120. For example, families living in 1 and 2-room HDB flats will receive S$380 of U-Save rebates each year, compared to S$260, while families living in 3 and 4-room HDB flats will receive S$340 and S$300 per year, respectively, compared to S$240 and S$220.
“The U-Save rebate will soften the impact of the water price increase,” said Mr Heng. “Even as we provide this assistance, we should not lose sight of the scarcity of water, and thus should conserve it.”
He added that taking into account these higher rebates, 75 per cent of all HDB households will see an average increase of less than S$12 in their monthly water expenses. On average, 1 and 2-room HDB households will not see an increase in their water expenses.
About 880,000 HDB households will benefit, he added. This will cost the Government an additional S$71 million each year.
ONE-OFF GST VOUCHER – CASH SPECIAL PAYMENT
To help lower-income households with expenses, Mr Heng also announced a one-off GST Voucher – Cash Special Payment of up to S$200 for eligible recipients. This is in addition to the regular GST Voucher - Cash.
In total, eligible Singaporeans can receive up to S$500 in cash for 2017, he added.
This one-off special payment will cost about S$280 million and benefit more than 1.3 million Singaporeans.
EXTENSION AND INCREASE OF S&CC REBATE; PERSONAL INCOME TAX REBATE
Mr Heng added that the Service and Conservancy Charges (S&CC) rebate will be extended, and raised by 0.5 months for FY2017. Eligible HDB households will receive 1.5 to 3.5 months of S&CC rebates this year, he said.
1 and 2 room HDB households will receive a total of 3.5 months of rebates, while 3- and 4-room households will receive 2.5 months of rebates.
This will cost the Government S$120 million, and about 880,000 HDB households will benefit.
Furthermore, in order to give households a reduction in their tax bills for this year, the government will also give a Personal Income Tax rebate of 20 per cent of tax payable for tax residents for YA2017. The amount is capped at S$500, added Mr Heng.
This will cost the Government S$385 million.
TOP-UPS TO FUNDS
In order to support the increase in U-Save and other future GST Voucher payments, the government will make a S$1.5 billion top-up to the GST Voucher Fund, said Mr Heng.
Medifund will also be topped up by S$500 million, he added, pointing out that since the last top-up in FY2013, Medifund utilisation has increased by an average of 9 per cent per year from FY2013 to 2015. This will bring the total fund size to S$4.5 billion.
The ComCare Fund, which supports families and individuals in need, will also be topped up by S$200 million.