SINGAPORE: The Government will give out a S$1.1 billion Bicentennial Bonus to Singaporeans as part of initiatives to commemorate the Singapore Bicentennial, Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat announced on Monday (Feb 18).
This bonus comprises several components, including a GST voucher for lower-income Singaporeans and a personal income tax rebate.
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Delivering his Budget speech, Mr Heng said that from time to time, when finances allow, the Government shares the surpluses with Singaporeans, and provides more help to those with specific needs.
“With this bonus, I hope all Singaporeans, young and old, will join us to commemorate this significant moment in Singapore’s history,” he said, as he outlined the various components of the bonus.
First, it will help lower-income Singaporeans with their daily expenses. About 1.4 million people will benefit from a GST Voucher – Cash (Bicentennial Payment), of up to S$300.
Lower-income workers who receive Workfare Income Supplement (WIS) payments will also get a Workfare Bicentennial Bonus. They will receive an additional 10 per cent of their WIS payment for work done in 2018, with a minimum payment of S$100 in cash.
Second, all tax resident individuals will also be granted a personal income tax rebate of 50 per cent, subject to a cap of S$200, for income earned in 2018. Mr Heng said this cap was set so that the benefits go mostly to middle-income earners.
Third, parents with school children will receive additional support for their children’s education.
There will be a S$150 top-up to the Edusave accounts of all Singaporean students at primary and secondary school levels. This is on top of the annual Edusave contributions the Government already makes.
Singaporeans aged 17 to 20 will receive up to S$500 in their Post-Secondary Education Accounts, if they do not already benefit from the Edusave top-up. Mr Heng said this will go towards helping parents to save for their children’s tertiary education.
In total, about 570,000 students are expected to benefit, and the top-ups will cost the Government S$140 million.
Finally, Mr Heng said there will be more support for older Singaporeans who are near retirement.
Eligible Singaporeans aged 50 to 64 years in 2019 who have less than S$60,000 of retirement savings in their CPF accounts will receive a top-up to their CPF accounts of up to S$1,000.
This top-up is expected to benefit about 300,000 Singaporeans, the majority of whom will be women, said Mr Heng.
“Many of them left the workforce early, and took up important roles as mothers, caregivers or housewives,” he said. “As a result, they had fewer years to build up their savings.”
“This top-up is a way to recognise their contributions and to help them save more.”
Mr Heng added that Singaporeans in the age group of 50 to 64 who also qualify for Workfare will also benefit from the WIS enhancements. Most of those in the 60 to 64 age group will also receive the Merdeka Generation Package, he added, while the rest will receive the five-year MediSave top-ups.
“Together, we hope that these measures will provide greater peace of mind for our older workers now and later in their silver years.”
BICENTENNIAL COMMUNITY FUND TO ENCOURAGE SINGAPOREANS TO GIVE BACK
Apart from the Bicentennial Bonus, Mr Heng also announced another special initiative in support of the Singapore Bicentennial.
A S$200 million Bicentennial Community Fund will be set up to encourage Singaporeans to give back to the community. This fund will provide dollar-for-dollar matching for donations made to Institutions of a Public Character (IPCs) in financial year 2019.
“With this, we hope to encourage more Singaporeans, including younger Singaporeans, to embrace the spirit of giving back,” he said. “At the same time, we are encouraging IPCs to reach out to more donors.”
The fund, he added, will be designed to ensure a good distribution of support for all donations to IPCs which do not currently receive government matching, and to increase the impact of the good work they are doing.