SINGAPORE: It is a matter of record that "there were never any plans" by the Government to immediately raise the Goods and Services Tax (GST), Senior Minister of State for Finance and Law Indranee Rajah said on Monday (Mar 5).
In a Facebook note titled GST Hike: A Matter of Record so that people know what this is about, Ms Indranee highlighted Workers' Party Member of Parliament Sylvia Lim's suggestion that the Government had floated "test balloons" about raising the GST.
Saying that Ms Lim was "in effect accusing the Government of being untruthful", Ms Indranee said the Government makes it a "point of principle" to be upfront and open with Singaporeans.
"When such allegations are made in Parliament, it is necessary to point them out. Keeping quiet and letting them be made freely would be the wrong thing to do," she said.
The Workers' Party chairman on Thursday said in Parliament that the Government had floated "test balloons" before the Budget announcement, then possibly "backed down" on an immediate GST hike due to negative public reaction.
"This led to an exchange with Minister K Shanmugam and Minister Heng Swee Keat, both of whom refuted this, pointing to the record which shows otherwise," said Ms Indranee.
She pointed out that the record showed that the Government has "consistently" said there is enough money to meet expenditure up to 2020, but that expenditure needs will rise, especially for healthcare and infrastructure.
The record also showed that the Government has always said that it must prepare ahead of time, and that it will have to raise revenue - including taxes - after 2020, Ms Indranee added.
"However, (it) is probably fair to say that not everyone is familiar with what’s on the record," said Ms Indranee. "This post takes you through what the Government has said on taxes and GST so that you can judge for yourselves."
She noted that Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong had raised the need for a tax increase in his 2013 National Day Rally speech.
Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam in 2014 as then-Finance Minister had said that Singapore's fiscal position was strong but that spending needs would rise going forward, and that Singapore would need to raise revenues in the next decade, said Ms Indranee.
She also pointed out that Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat spoke of the expectation that expenditure needs would rise rapidly, particularly in healthcare and infrastructure, during his Budget 2017 speech.
At the end of his PAP Convention speech last year, Mr Lee also talked about raising taxes and how Singapore's spending needs will grow, said Ms Indranee.
She said there was "no reason" for the Government to want to implement an immediate GST hike, and that Ms Lim's allegation "makes no sense".