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Ex-GIC economist issued second POFMA correction direction in about a month

Mr Yeoh Lam Keong made a false statement on the Government's fiscal surpluses, which was reproduced by The Independent Singapore website, says the Ministry of Finance.

Ex-GIC economist issued second POFMA correction direction in about a month

A view of the Singapore city skyline on Sep 23, 2022. (File photo: CNA/Try Sutrisno Foo)

SINGAPORE: Correction directions have been issued to The Independent Singapore (TISG) website and Mr Yeoh Lam Keong, a former chief economist of Singapore sovereign wealth fund GIC, after they posted false and misleading statements regarding the Government’s fiscal surpluses.

This is the second correction direction, under the  Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA), to be issued to Mr Yeoh in the space of five weeks.

The newer correction direction involves two Facebook posts published by Mr Yeoh on Nov 7, after Parliament passed a Bill allowing the Goods and Services Tax to be hiked in stages over the next two years.

This "seems completely unnecessary at the moment as we have a S$30 billion structural fiscal surplus that we have not even begun to publicly delineate clear spending big plans for", Mr Yeoh wrote.

TISG reproduced this statement in two separate articles on Nov 9 and Nov 12.

In a media release on Friday (Nov 18), the Ministry of Finance (MOF) said: "Mr Yeoh’s statement claims that there are S$30 billion in structural fiscal surpluses that are available to the Government for spending. This is untrue.

"Over the last two decades (excluding FY2020, which had a significant fiscal deficit due to COVID-19 expenditures), the Government recorded on average a fiscal balance of S$2.2 billion per annum," the ministry added.

"It is therefore untrue that the Government has 'a S$30 billion structural fiscal surplus' that is available for spending yearly."

Recipients of a correction direction under POFMA are required to insert a notice against the original post or article, with a link to the Government’s clarification. 

Mr Yeoh and TISG have added correction notices to the posts and articles in question.

On Friday, MOF pointed out that the Constitution “defines clearly” the fiscal rules for the Government.

"Any public spending beyond these fiscal rules means that the Government will be using more from the past reserves and leaving behind less for the next generation," it said.

“Furthermore, the Government is not in a position to freely or unilaterally decide to spend any part of the past reserves. Any drawing of the past reserves is subject to the President’s concurrence.”

Last month, a correction direction was also issued to Mr Yeoh - as well as The Online Citizen website - after they posted false and misleading statements about HDB’s deficits and Singapore’s past reserves.

Source: CNA/cm(jo)


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