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NSP on Budget: Cut cost of living, address base issues

NSP in Tampines
Mr Tan Lam Siong (centre) meeting residents in Tampines (image - NSP Facebook page)

While supporting a number of the initiatives from Budget 2015, the National Solidarity Party (NSP) called for the government to make several improvements to ensure that the elderly receive assistance urgently, reduce overall cost of living rather than provide subsidies, and focus on base issues such as rentals for businesses and social costs of policies.

The NSP welcomes the measures to provide greater financial support and assistance to the elderly, families and the working class," wrote NSP's secretary-general Tan Lam Siong in a statement issued to media. "However, it has certain reservations and sentiments about some of the measures and the overall impact of the budget."

Mr Tan called for the payouts for the Silver Support Scheme, which represent a lifeline to many of the poorest
elderly, to "take effect without any delay" instead of kicking on only at the first quarter of next year, for payouts to be made every month instead of every three months, and for means-testing to be done away with.

While applauding the increase in income taxes for top earners as a positive step towards income redistribution, NSP also asked the government to address the real issues that affect the costs of living for lower and middle income groups.

"Whilst top-ups, rebates, waivers and concessions are good as they always provide a welcomed reprieve for the ordinary citizen, they are often treated as government “hand-outs”. By their very nature, government handouts are not permanent and are invariably subject to conditions. Further, government handouts often invite public suspicions of the motivations behind them, especially in or approaching an election year."

"NSP believes that the need for government handouts would be greatly diminished if substantive measures are taken to effectively lower the cost of living such as reducing indirect taxes like the Goods and Services Tax. In this vein, the increase in petrol duty is a completely misguided. Such a move unwittingly adds to the woes of the lower income group that the budget seeks to help."

Another measure proposed was to assist local businesses by lowering rental, which the government can take the lead with as it can "lower rent substantially for properties that are owned by the government or
government-linked companies", which Mr Tan said will help to save jobs for low and middle-income
families.

NSP highlighted areas of expenditure which it deemed excessive and have also led to a greater deficit in Budget 2015, such as  investments in Changi Airport, national defence, the SG50 National Day parade, SouthEast Asian Games and the Asean Para Games.

"As a matter of principle in spending taxpayers’ monies, NSP would like to urge the government to exercise greater frugality whenever possible and to curb wastages and excesses so that more funds can be channelled to help lower the cost of living for the low and middle income groups and to provide a stronger social safety network
for those in need."

Mr Tan also called for changes to the transportation system to help low- and middle-income earners, such as reducing the cost of Certificate of Entitlements (COE) for motorcycles, and removing evening Electronic Road Pricing (ERP) charges to encourage families to have dinners together.

NSP also called for the government to implement education policies that pursue knowledge for the love of knowledge, including a a thorough review of scholarships and bursaries given to foreign students.

"Overall, the budget demonstrates a greater sensitivity on the part of the government to the needs of the elderly and the working class. However, the measures only reach out to their needs on a superficial level and do not address the substantive causes of their predicaments."

"NSP hopes that government budgets will take into greater consideration the social costs and impact on the people. The ‘opposition effect' may or may not have contributed to a greater leaning towards social welfare for Singaporeans. Whatever it may be, greater economic success for Singapore should not mean even higher costs of living. It should bring about not only a better standard of living but also a higher quality of life for our people."