The Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) has issued a statement regarding Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s recent warnings that tax increases are onset and “inevitable” as government spending is growing.
The SDP points out that back in the General Elections of 2015, Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam denied the SDP’s claims that there will be a GST increase, claiming that “there is no basis” to those claims.
Yesterday, however, and just two years after that initial promise, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong backtracked on it, claiming long term restructuring in Singapore’s plans, while emphasising the need to be honest with Singaporeans, unlike Western democracies whose governments have lost the trust of the common man.
The SDP adds that this isn’t the first time the government has raised taxes since the General Elections, citing examples of the increase in carpark fees, ERP charges, COE prices, taxi-license fees, bus and train fares, water prices, Service & Conservancy Charges, and even fees for the PAP’s own kindergartens.
The SDP also took issue with Minister Shanmugaratnam’s accusation that the SDP was spreading “fear and alarm” through its “populist policies” and that the SDP was not being upfront with Singaporeans on the costs of these programmes.
Citing examples such as the Returner Work Trial introduced earlier this year, and Medishield Life introduced in 2012, the SDP charged the government with being hypocritical, as it has implemented these policies they previously criticised to be populist, while itself not being upfront with the people by denying the SDP’s warnings of tax increases.
During the general elections period in 2015, Mr Tharman Shanmugaratnam denied the SDP’s warnings that the government would raise the GST.
At that time, he said that “there is no basis” to claims that the GST would be increased to fund increased public spending.
But Mr Lee Hsien Loong finally admitted yesterday at the PAP conference that it was inevitable that taxes would have to be raised to fund government spending.
While the PAP has so far not raised the GST after the elections, it has increased taxes and fees for a slew of items.
In 2016, the government increased carpark fees by as much as 27 percent. It has also raised ERP charges for several gantries as well as added new gantries on the expressways.
The government also announced plans to restrict vehicle growth rate to zero percent, thus ensuring that COE prices would skyrocket. It also has indicated that bus and train fares would go up. In 2016, it raised taxi-licence fees.
This year, it raised water prices by an alarming 30 percent.
PAP-run town councils also upped Service & Conservancy Charges by as much as $17 depending on the flat-type.
In addition, immediately after the GE in 2015 the PAP raised fees for its kindergartens and childcare centres. It increased the fees again in 2017.
Such hikes continue to pile pressure on Singaporeans who are already feeling the financial pain from the high cost of living and a slowing economy in Singapore.
During the Buklit Batok by-election last year, Minister Shanmugaratnam also accused the SDP of spreading “fear and alarm” through our alternative policy proposals.
Referring to the SDP’s call for universal healthcare and unemployment insurance, the DPM said that he was “troubled” by these populist policy proposals and that the SDP should tell the people that these programmes are not free.
The PAP has the habit of criticising the SDP during the elections and then quietly adopting our ideas thereafter. For example, the government introduced the Returner Work Trial this year which is essentially a retrenchment benefits scheme similar to the SDP’s that we proposed in 2010.
Also in 2012, the SDP proposed that our “individual health care risks be pooled” in a nationalised healthcare insurance programme. Three years later, the government introduced its Medishield Life, saying that “everyone shares in the national risk pool”.
Not only has the PAP copied our ideas, it now wants to increase taxes to pay for the programmes as stated by PM Lee in his party speech yesterday.
So the next time Mr Tharman accuses the SDP of proposing populist policies, he should also tell the public that his party is bankrupt of ideas and has to adopt the SDP’s proposals.
He should also be up front with the people and stop denying that our warnings of the government raising taxes have no basis.