‘Cannot see each year’s Budget in isolation’: Heng responds to those who feel left out of Budget 2019
The Finance Minister also said the Budget is the country’s strategic financial plan for the future, and not a bag of benefits that serves some in one year or another.
SINGAPORE: The Singapore Government takes a long-term approach to planning for the country’s budget and this “strategic financial plan for the future” cannot be seen in isolation, Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat said in his round-up speech for this year’s Budget debate on Thursday (Feb 28).
“Even if there’s nothing new for you this year, you and your family have certainly benefitted from every one of our budgets,” he said, pointing out that some people have said to him that there did not seem to be anything in this Budget for them.
For instance, young people here have benefitted from stronger support in education, housing and parenthood, as well as the opportunities that a vibrant economy brings.
Parents, for one, can receive a maximum of between S$18,000 and S$32,000 in marriage and parenthood benefits for each eligible child, on top of paid maternity and paternity leave, tax benefits and pre-school subsidies, he said.
Middle-income families, especially those sandwiched between supporting retiree parents and school-going children, also benefit from various schemes, the minister added.
These include the just-announced Merdeka Generation Package to ease healthcare costs for their parents, as well as the tax rebate of up to S$200.
“Some middle-income and upper-income families also commented that the tax rebate of S$200 is insignificant, and of not much benefit to them,” Mr Heng said.
“But we must not forget that overall, income taxes are kept low, so that they can keep a large part of what they earn.”
Mr Heng reiterated that the Government’s long-term approach to budget planning means that we cannot see each year’s Budget in isolation.
“Our budget builds on the foundation of earlier budgets,” he said in Parliament. “We have a multi-year plan which tackles the priorities as systematically as we can.”
He cited the efforts in this Budget to tackle climate changes and addressing the evolving needs of different groups of people as examples.
The minister said he was “glad” many Members of Parliament (MPs) have asked “what is in it for us, for Singapore?” rather than “what is in it for me?”
“Budget 2019, and our previous budgets, are to build a better Singapore for all of us,” Mr Heng said.