By Leong Sze Hian

I refer to the article “Govt ‘will look out for asset-rich, cash-poor’” (Straits Times, Nov 18).

“Very mindful” of “sandwiched Singaporeans”?

It states that “In designing its tax system, the Government is “very mindful of this particular group of sandwiched Singaporeans”, Acting Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Lawrence Wong said in response to concerns raised by residents of Joo Chiat in a dialogue.

For instance, it has moved away from using Housing Board flat type as the qualifying criteria for Budget surplus sharing schemes, he said.

Moved to “fairer system” because owners of lower-end private property can also benefit?

“These schemes now use the annual value of property, which Mr Wong said is a “fairer system” because owners of lower-end private property can also benefit.”

How many such households benefited?

How many and what percentage of all private property households have benefited from this “fairer system” which we have moved to (“now use the annual value of property”),  in the “Budget surplus sharing schemes”?

Less than 1 per cent?

Chas – why have AV below $13,000 criteria?

As to “Three of them were unhappy that although they had little or no income, they or family members could not qualify for the Community Health Assist Scheme (Chas), which subsidises care at private general practitioner clinics”

– since the Chas is a fairly new scheme, why does it have an “Annual Value (AV) of residence as reflected on NRICs is $13,000 and below for economically inactive households” criteria?

How many of such households qualified?

How many private property households have qualified for the Chas?

How many private property households have AV below $13,000?

AV keeps increasing?

As I understand that the AV is gradually increased over the years to reflect increased rentals, why does it apply to owner-occupied households as well?

How many households had AV below $13,000 for 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009 and 2008?

With regard to “Others were worried about large hospital bills”

Medifund – no private property?

– why is it as I understand it (because Medifund criteria is secret) private property households who can’t pay their Class C and B2 medical bills, are excluded from applying under Medifund?

In respect of “The Government is already committed to spending more in areas like health care”

Lowest public healthcare spending?

– why is our public healthcare spending at 1.4 per cent of GDP still the lowest among developed and developing countries?

As to “It also draws on the Net Investment Returns of the reserves to fund its spending, he added”

Draw NIR to spend more – still $36.1b surplus?

– why is it that despite drawing on the Net investment Returns of the Reserves, our Budget surplus last year was $3.9 billion and $36.1 billion according to IMF fiscal reporting standards?

Singapore – one of the highest “public debt” countries?

“But it also wants to avoid the plight of some European countries, where future generations will have to foot the bill for current debts”

– “the level of outstanding government debt stood at S$354 billion as at December 2011, or 108 per cent of GDP, according to the government’s Accountant-General’s Department” (“Fiscal prudence helps Singapore avoid public debt problem: Josephine Teo“, Channel NewsAsia, Oct 9).

“Mrs Teo said: “Singapore’s reported public debt level is also high relative to our GDP, but the nature of public debt in Singapore is fundamentally different from that in the US and most other countries. The Singapore government does not borrow to spend, nor do we have any external debt.

“The reported public debt in fact comprises securities issued for two main purposes — to meet the investment needs of the Central Provident Fund, which is Singapore’s mandatory defined social security scheme, and to develop the domestic debt market.”

The assets also generate investment returns of S$8 billion to the government’s revenues each year, funding around 16 per cent of annual expenditure.

These help fund social and economic programmes to benefit Singaporeans”

Utilise our CPF as cheap borrowing?

– does the fact that most of Singapore’s public debt is from our CPF, mean that we may in a sense, be short-changed by about $12 billion a year (difference of say 3.5 per cent between the returns (assuming 6 per cent) and the CPF interest rate, on $354 billion ), unlike all the other countries?

In respect of “On residents’ health-care concerns, Mr Wong said those who do not qualify for Chas can appeal to the Health Ministry or look to other social assistance measures like ComCare, which comes with “very flexible” criteria”

How many successful appeal cases?

– how many appeal cases were successful last year? Less than 10 or maybe zero?

Spend more, need to tax more?

“But, he added: “Eventually, if we continue to spend more, then we must find ways in which we can cover this future spending with additional revenues”

– isn’t a $36.1 billion Budget surplus for last year (IMF fiscal reporting standards) enough?

“More balanced responsibilities between the Government and community”?

“Reiterating a point he made in the dialogue, which had “A Caring Community” as its theme, Mr Wong called on citizens to also think of how they can help one another – in true kampung spirit.

Then we will have more balanced responsibilities between the Government and community, all doing our part to help the vulnerable segments of society”

Never spend a single cent on healthcare, CPF and HDB?

– how can we talk about “more balanced responsibilities between the Government and community”, when from a cashflow perspective, the Government continues to not spend a single cent on healthcare, CPF and HDB?

“Very mindful” rhetoric – no statistics, no real action?

The subject headlines story in the Straits Times is perhaps best described as a lot of nice words that do not seem to be backed up by statistics or the reality of action to truly help Singaporeans.

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