Leong Sze Hian

New Paper front page headlines (Jun 5) : “100 days on, still no sign of him Mas Selamat”

Was the HomeTeam just complacent in Mas Selamat’s escape, or has the Home Team been complacent in other things as well?

I have been insured under the SCDF (Singapore Civil Defense Force) Group Term Life with Personal Accident Insurance Scheme for many years. I received a letter dated 8 May 2008, informing me that my “policy is due for renewal on 1 January 2008 ….. inviting renewal at the same rate”.

The annual premium is $ 1,639.80 for my sum insured of $ 300,000. Why is it that it took more than four months to send out the renewal notice ?

Am I and other Home Team (SCDF) insureds under the scheme covered from the expiry date of the policy on 31 December 2007 ?

On the same day that I received the above mentioned renewal notice, I also received the Home Team’s NS May/June 2008 magazine.

On page 3, there is a Home Team NS Insurance Scheme covering term life insurance and Personal Insurance (the same cover as my SCDF Group Insurance Scheme) at a much lower premium of $ 624 a year for the same $ 300,000 sum insured.

This new premium offer is 62 per cent less than my current renewal premium.

Why are there two schemes for Home Team NS members with such a wide difference in premiums ?

Some members may not be aware of the cheaper scheme if they do not read the Home Team NS magazine.

Shouldn’t the HomeTeam have the responsibility to inform members individually that there are two schemes ? Why wasn’t all SCDF Group Scheme members migrated to the new much cheaper scheme ?

Would the HomeTeam like to comment on the above ?

Does the Police talk to the ICA?

I refer to the article “$2 m cheat blows it all on gambling” (ST, Jun 10).

It states that “After the police took away his passport during the investigation, (he) went to the Immigration & Checkpoints Authority (ICA), claimed that he had lost his passport and obtained a new one”.

Since both the Police and ICA are under the same Ministry of Home Affairs, how could this lapse have occurred ? What’s the point of impounding passports, if one could just go the ICA to apply for a new one ?

Don’t the Police talk to the ICA ?

After the Mas Selamat escape, I think Singaporean’s confidence in our Home Team may have diminished.

Will there be an inquiry to ascertain how this lapse occurred, with a view to ensuring that it does not happen again ?

Over the years, how many have managed to escaped, despite having their passports impounded ? Are we being complacent in discharging our responsibility to be fair to citizen taxpayers?

Tax relief – unchanged for years?

I refer to the Ministry of Finance’s reply “Ministry explains rationale behind parent tax relief” (ST, Jun 9) to David Goh’s letter “Be more realistic in allowing parent relief” (ST, Jun 3).

It states that :

As the parent relief is not aimed at compensating the taxpayer for the costs of maintaining his parents, it is not pegged directly to inflation or the cost of living. However, the Government has made major moves to reduce personal income tax burdens.

According to the Budget’s estimated receipts for FY 2008, the estimated tax revenue from Personal Income Tax at $ 5.9 billion is an increase of 26 per cent over FY 2006’s $ 4.7 billion.

As to the 60 per cent of Singaporean workers paying no income tax due to the reduction in income tax rates over the years, and the exemption of the first $ 20,000 of income from tax, the estimated GST revenue at $ 6.2 billion is an increase of 55 per cent over FY 2006’s $ 4 billiom.

Since GST is generally a regressive tax, relative to income tax – which means that the lower-income may pay more tax relative to the higher-income, compared to income tax – Singaporeans end up paying 55 per cent and 26 per cent more in GST and income tax, respectively.

One of the main reasons given for introducing and increasing GST, was to compensate for the cuts in the corporate tax rate.

In this regard, even the corporate income tax estimate for FY 2008, at $ 9.2 billion, is an increase of 8 per cent over FY 2006’s $ 8.5 billion.

In view of the above, as well as the Budget surplus of over $ 6.4 billion, surely we could be more generous in increasing the parent relief to help Singaporeans cope with rising inflation which is at a 26-year high of 7.5 per cent, instead of saying that it is just symbolic, rather than compensatory.

Are there any countries in the world which pegs tax reliefs symbolically, without regard to the realism of the actual impact on taxpayers ?

By the way, for how many decades has the Wife Relief remained at $ 2,000 without any inflation or cost-of-living adjustment ?

Are we being complacent in shouldering our responsibility by not leading by example?

Malaysia leads by example. How about Singapore?

I refer to media reports (“Belt-tightening in KL as Abdullah announces cuts, ST, Jun 10”, “Ministers’ allowances slashed, Today, Jun 10”, “Malaysia cuts ministers’ allowances to save money, My Paper, Jun 10”) that Malaysia has announced a 2 billion ringgit (S$833 million) cost-cutting package, including a 10 per cent cut on the entertainment allowance for ministers and limiting official overseas trips.

In Singapore, the acting Minister of Manpower said recently that:

Raising wages to address the issue of rising costs may be an enticing option but that is not the right solution.

He also said:

Adjusting wages upwards to meet rising prices would only result in a ‘price-wage spiral’ and Singaporeans should look at the bigger picture. What is more important is for us to have a realistic expectation of wages that reflect the underlying economic strength of our industries and also of our productivity. That will allow us to ensure that our economy will be able to sustain its growth momentum.

The minister has made a very good point, as our national productivity declined by 0.9 last year.

In the spirit of leading by example, I would like to suggest that the ministers consider reversing their pay rise in April 2007 and 31 December, 2007, and their next scheduled pay rise on 31 December, 2008.

By “sharing the pain” with ordinary Singaporeans, I feel that the minister’s advice may be better accepted by workers.

In this connection, the median monthly income for employed residents grew at 1.4 per cent per annum from $2,000 in 2001, to $2,170 in 2007.

It would be a great gesture which I’m sure the ordinary worker earning one to two thousand dollars a month will appreciate, if ministers who already earn $1.9 million or more a year (which is many times their Malaysian counterparts’ pay), don’t increase their own pay, whilst asking workers not to ask for more pay to cope with rising inflation which has hit another 26-year high of 7.5 per cent in May.

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