Leong Sze Hian / Columnist
The Prime Minister spoke about several issues in his National Day Rally speech on Sunday. I would like to focus on three of them – vehicle-related revenue, contributions to the Mosque Building and Mendaki Fund (MBMF) and briefly, rental flats.
Speaking on the cost of owning cars, the PM said that the Government collected $6 billion in vehicle-related revenue in 2000. In 2008, the figure has been halved – $3 billion, the PM said. He added that this effectively means that the Government has “saved Singaporeans about $3 billion of tax.”
Although total Vehicle-Related Revenues fell from $6.1 billion in 2000 to $3.4 billion now, to what extent was the reduction due to the drop in the Certificate of Entitlement (COE)? COE for vehicles up to 1,600 cc in April 2000 was $44,472, compared to $14,685 in July 2008. So to what extent was the drop in revenue due to market demand and supply, rather than a planned concerted vehicle revenue-reduction policy? Were there any announcements in 2000 or later years, with regards to revenue-reduction policies? Can we have a breakdown of how much such revenue reduction policies have contributed to the reduction, vis-a-vis the drop in COE revenue?
Rental flats – more information please
The Prime Minister also spoke about an “effective safety net” for the “genuinely needy”, as reported here by Channel NewsAsia. He revealed that according to statistics from PAP MPs’ Meet-The-People sessions, more and more Singaporeans are applying for HDB rental flats. They make up one-third of the cases which the MPs see.
The PM related how a 60-year-old lady with three children – two of whom are living in private properties – wanted to apply for a rental flat from the HDB. Her children were even prepared to hire a maid to look after their mother.
Instead of just citing one isolated example of an undeserving applicant, can the HDB give us the statistics on the percentage of the 4,000+ applicants on the waiting list who were “undeserving” ones?
After saying at the beginning of his speech in Malay that “One major worry of Singaporeans is higher inflation,” the PM announced an increase in contribution to the MBMF by Muslim Singaporeans. He “gave the assurance that the new contribution rates will be affordable, especially for those earning less”. I would like to suggest and ask whether the Malay MPs and community leaders have sounded out their community as to how they feel about paying more, particularly with respect to the timing now, as some may be finding it difficult to cope with rising inflation?
The increase will be between 50 cents to $5 (“Muslims to give more to fund”, ST, Aug 20). This is an increase of between 17 to 47 per cent. Those earning just $1,001 have to pay 17 per cent more, up from the current $3 to $3.50.
I also suggest that instead of the current flat-rate contribution (for example, $2 for those earning up to $1,000 in income), a percentage contribution may be more equitable, such that those who earn more should contribute more. For example, a Malay minister who earns $158,333 a month ($1.9 million a year) will then contribute $633 a month (instead of the new increased amount of $16 a month (from the existing $11) for those earning over $4,000 (which is a contribution rate of 0.4%). Perhaps we may also consider going one step further, by increasing the rate of contribution for those who earn more. How about 0.5 per cent for those earning over $100,000 a month?