SINGAPORE: Over the eight days of this year’s Committee of Supply (COS) debate, Members of Parliament filed 530 cuts lasting about 52 hours - the longest over the past five years.
For many of us, calling that an information overload would be putting it lightly, especially when taken together with the quick-fire announcements coming out of the various Government ministries.
So we've saved you the trouble and summarised these announcements into the eight that may impact you and your lives the most.
1) PROTECTING PMEs UNDER AMENDED EMPLOYMENT ACT
Are you a professional, manager or executive (PME) who earns more than S$4,500 a month? Good news: You will be covered under the Employment Act (you weren’t previously) by April 2019.
This means your basic employee rights, like your precious public holidays and sick leave entitlements, will be legally protected.
You’ll also be able to seek redress with the Manpower Ministry if you feel your nasty boss has wrongfully dismissed you.
2) DEFERRING ASSESSMENT OF INCOME FOR YOUNG COUPLES
Welcome to Singapore, where many people think a good marriage proposal is to ask the famous (or infamous) question: “Shall we apply for a flat together?”
To help young couples get an earlier start to their marriage, the Housing and Development Board (HDB) will allow those applying for a flat to defer their assessment of income for housing loans and grants to just before they collect their keys.
Say you’ve just graduated, and your partner’s still studying. But you’re serious about each other and know you’re going to spend the rest of your lives together. Previously, if you wanted to benefit from grants like the Additional Central Provident Fund (CPF) Housing Grant and Special CPF Housing Grant, you'd have to be working at least 12 months continuously before applying for a new flat.
But from the upcoming Build-To-Order or Sale of Balance Flats exercise in May, first-time couples who are full-time students or National Servicemen, or have recently completed their studies or National Service, will be able to qualify for this deferment. This will, said the Ministry of National Development and HDB, reduce the waiting time for a new flat by at least a year.
3) REMOVING TIME-BAR POLICY FOR DIVORCEES
But say your marriage goes sour. It’s a difficult time, and this change may go some way in making the transition an easier one for you and your children.
Previously, only one party of a divorced couple could buy or own a subsidised flat within three years from the date of their divorce. But now, as announced by MND and HDB, both parties will be able to buy or own a subsidised flat each, provided they are both able to meet the eligibility conditions for buying a flat.
4) BATTLING ERRANT PARKING OF SHARED BIKES
Tired of weaving your way through the 56 shared bikes that crowd your void deck, bus stop, and MRT station? Fret no more. Authorities are rolling out geo-fencing and a new licensing scheme to clamp down on errant parking.
For geo-fencing, to be implemented in the second half of this year, users must scan a QR code at designated parking spaces to prove they’ve parked properly before ending a trip.
For the new licensing, bike-sharing operators will have their fleet size reviewed every six months based on how well they tackle errant parking. They must also temporarily ban mischievous users who park indiscriminately. The Land Transport Authority will start accepting licensing applications from middle this year.
Operators that don’t comply will face fines of up to S$100,000, reductions in fleet size, suspension or even cancellation of their licences.
5) REGISTERING E-SCOOTERS TO DETER RECKLESS BEHAVIOUR
It’s been a long day at work. You’re walking home and about to turn right when an e-scooter zooms past. Near miss, but the rider says he isn’t sorry. Changes are afoot, though – the Government will implement the registration of e-scooters from the second half of this year.
Users must ensure their e-scooter has a max top speed of 25kmh, and does not exceed 20kg in weight and 0.7m in width. They must also paste identification stickers prominently on their devices.
The registration process will be kept as simple and low-cost as possible, authorities said, adding that it will deter reckless behaviour and facilitate enforcement.
6) CO-PAYMENTS FOR INTEGRATED SHIELD PLAN RIDERS
So you’ve just signed up for an Integrated Shield insurance plan with a rider. But if you think your private insurer’s going to pick up the tab for all your medical bills, think again.
From Apr 1, 2019, you need to know that zero payment coverage under new Integrated Shield Plan riders won't be available and new policyholders will have to pay at least 5 per cent of your medical bill.
In explaining the change, Health Minister Gan Kim Yong said these “full rider” policies encourage a “buffet syndrome”, as patients do not need to pay anything for their treatments. This also leads to over-consumption, over-servicing and over-charging of healthcare services, which could, in turn, lead to higher fees and premiums over time.
But fret not if you’re worried about higher medical costs. Insurers will need to cap the co-payment amount, and they’re looking at an annual limit of about S$3,000. Premiums for the new riders are also expected to have lower premiums than these full riders, so the switch will result in premium savings for policyholders.
7) ADDING MORE POLYCLINICS
Residents of Nee Soon Central and Tampines North, this one’s for you. The Ministry of Health (MOH) will be opening new polyclinics in the two estates by 2023. This move is, in fact, part of a larger push by MOH to open more polyclinics. Six to eight more polyclinics are in the pipeline and will be coming to you by 2030.
While there aren’t many details yet about where these polyclinics will be located, MOH says by 2030, there’ll be a total of 30 to 32 polyclinics under their network. So look forward to a shorter travelling time to your nearest polyclinic, and perhaps even shorter waiting times to see a doctor.
8) PAYNOW FOR CPF LUMP SUM WITHDRAWALS
You’ve turned 55 and are looking forward to a nice birthday present: your CPF lump sum withdrawal. So why wait five working days when you can get it on the same day? This will be possible from Mar 26 with the use of PayNow.
This comes as the Government steps up its efforts to reduce cash use, although it is not going cashless “for its own sake”, Minister-in-Charge of the Smart Nation initiative Vivian Balakrishnan said.
“The ultimate objectives are to lower transaction costs for both businesses and citizens, and expand opportunities especially for small businesses, freelancers and entrepreneurs.”