By Yasmeen Banu and Howard Lee
This year Budget’s speech, made by Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, Tharman Shanmugaratnam, and broadcast live last Friday, focuses more on the elderly, education subsidies, and increase of median wages. The Pioneer Generation Package featured heavily, as much as increase in liquor, tobacco and betting excises drew laughter and applause in the House.
How have his proposals affected the intended recipients? TOC took a look across various online platforms to gather what the people think about Budget 2014.
Pioneer Generation Package
The Pioneer Generation Package drew not only the most comments, but the most varied comments – not surprising, given the time devoted to it. Much of it was also related to the rising cost of healthcare and the 3M system.
National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan responded to the announcement on Sunday, and said that the Budget and the Pioneer Generation Package “will go ways to ‘debunk’ the view that healthcare is not affordable for seniors…this is because of the greater healthcare subsidies seniors will be getting”.
Apparently, not all citizens agreed with him. Many referred to the base issue of rising healthcare costs and pointed out that such measures might not be necessary if these costs were better managed.
There were also concerns about whether the PGP might unfairly burden future generations, much as it is welcome relief for the elderly. Others were suspicious about whether the premiums for younger generation might be increased to cover for the expenditure. There was also scepticism about whether there would be complete and unfettered disbursement of the $8 billion fund, as much as there were doubts about the sufficiency of the package.
Clearly, the PGP was received with mixed feelings, across age groups.
Issues of inclusiveness
While most accepted that the PGP was necessary and morally a step in the right direction, commenters were also disappointed that the Budget mostly left out the middle income and working class. The benefit of the Budget to families was also called into question, with those in the “sandwiched class” touted as feeling the brunt.
The unhappiness seems to be directed at the Budget’s attempt to hand out freebies, which is then seen to be at the expense of everyday citizens. Some of these sentiments can also be found in grouses about medical costs, with some suspecting that the middle-aged working class will be forced to foot the bill for the PGP.
The efforts made to boost productivity were also deemed inadequate in helping the man on the street. Some viewed the various schemes proposed as ways to help corporations rather than citizens. In all, the proposals made to boost the economy, while lauded by the business community, did not go down well with citizens in general.
“The extension of the PIC (Productivity and Innovation Credit) by another three years is much welcomed but small companies may be disappointed that there are no changes made to the level of cash payouts available.” – Ms Tan Bin Eng, Partner, Business Incentives Advisory, Ernst & Young Solutions LLP (as published on the EY website)
“The government is taking steps to strike a balance between pushing for economic growth while maintaining social equality and stability. This is an important recognition by the Government as otherwise, sustained growth is not possible.” – Ms Amy Ang, Partner, Financial Services Tax, Ernst & Young Solutions LLP (as published on the EY website)
Excess of excise
While jokes were lobbed at the Finance Minister about his announcement on the increase of alcohol, tobacco and betting excises, these were equally matched with vehement rejection.
Some commenters were adamant that the tax will be ineffective in preventing drinking, smoking and gambling, but others also noted the glaring contrast to a complete lack of effort to increase the tax burden on the “big guys”. Corporate tax remains unmoved, which led some to lament that the increase in excises would only hurt consumers, line the government’s pocket and increase the cost of living.
“How to damage an already overpriced F&B industry: Raise alcohol excise duties by 25 per cent when you look at the economic benefits bestowed on Hong Kong by the abolition of drinks or wine, this is a baffling move.” – David Sandison, Partner, PwC Singapore (as reported in AsiaOne)