The Singapore People's Party (SPP) has issued its statement on the upcoming Budget 2018 that will be announced by Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat on 19 Feb 2018 at the Singapore Parliament. SPP highlights the growing issue of inequality in Singapore and lists out various proposals to resolve social issues that it highlighted in its statement.
Pointing to a recent survey by the Institute of Policy Studies (IPS) on Social Capital in Singapore which revealed that there is a growing class divide in Singapore, SPP notes that it is vital that the government develops an economic strategy to not just create wealth, but to ensure that the distribution of such wealth is done equitably, so that the most vulnerable in society will not get left behind.
SPP wrote, "In addition, we must be cognizant of Singapore’s working class who are also struggling to make ends meet, who live from hand to mouth every month, and don’t have the means to save for their future because of the high cost of living in Singapore."
It further states, "What is also clear in our conversations which many Singaporeans and members of the public across various age groups, and across races is that there is a consistent demand for the improvement of quality of life in Singapore. Quality of life is subjective and demands are different across countries." and emphasize the importance for Singapore to have a fair gauge of what increasing quality of life means to as many Singaporeans as possible, across all age groups, and races, regardless of their wealth backgrounds.
SPP also notes that it is important for the Government to practice prudence in spending, and not raise the burden of expenditure through added taxes on citizens, especially the middle income, who will be most affected by any further changes to the taxation structure.
"With rising costs of living, greater probability of disruption and possible loss of jobs, it is imperative that the Government recognizes the issues and pain points faced by Singaporeans." wrote SPP.
In hopes that the middle income and the sandwiched class will receive a lot more support, SPP proposes:
• Income Tax rebates for middle income workers whose salaries have not increased to offset inflation and rising cost of living
• No further increases in Goods and Services Taxes
On housing, SPP proposes:
• That the Government starts looking at allowing young married couples who are not so keen or ready to buy their own homes to be able to rent a flat from the HDB before they make their decision to buy a home from the HDB.
• The Government should also allow young single Singaporeans to purchase their homes from the HDB when they are 21 and not have to wait till they are 35.
Noting that many students whom SPP have spoken to, have said that the education system has not really prepared them for the real world, SPP proposes:
• More resources be allocated to all our local Universities to help our graduating students seek roles or internships at companies soon after their graduate
• More support be allocated to the ITE colleges and Polytechnics so that these institutions can build partnerships with companies which will provide training and internships
• We would also like to have an update on Global Innovation Alliance announced at Budget 2017. How impactful has it been for our students? How many students have been placed overseas as a result of the programme?
On healthcare, SPP proposes:
• Greater support for agencies or VWOs whose primary roles are geared towards outreach for mental health well-being
• Greater allocation of support for volunteer or social workers in these areas
• More social workers to be allocated in schools across Singapore
In addition, SPP points out that it is important that the Government considers expanding the coverage of Medishield Life so that more people will be able to get the healthcare support.
SPP highlights in its statement that with disruption and displacement appearing to be a norm, there are many who are in their late 40s and early 50s who are being retrenched or made redundant because of changes to industries.
It is said that Singapore needs to find ways to help many of these pre-seniors who have been displaced get the appropriate training so that they are able to contribute meaningfully towards Singapore so they too will feel like Singapore is home to them. Helping them would also mean helping to counsel them and to provide them with advice to take on second or third careers, with the appropriate training.
On pre-seniors, SPP proposes:
• An insurance of social safety net, or the creation of a coalition of partners from the government and commercial sector which will help pre-seniors who are displaced to get retrained, and ready for the workforce
• Counselling sessions and services to help such pre-seniors who are displaced to get retrained
Sports and Community Integration
Citing a recent Institute of Policy Studies which showed that people in high income households did not mix much with people from low income households, SPP notes that sports is one way to bring people together, from all walks of life, and from across different wealth backgrounds. However, it also points out that Singapore’s sports culture has regressed over the years.
On the area of sports, SPP proposes:
• To have funds raised from the Singapore Sports Hub project revenue sharing mechanism to be re-distributed directly back towards sports programming
• To raise more money for sports, the Government should provide more opportunities for commercial companies to be involved in sports. There are many public assets like neighbourhood stadiums which can be used to create value and raise funds for sports. These funds raised can be re-distributed directly back towards sports programming
• More financial support programmes for our national athletes from all tiers, especially for those who wish to take time off from work to prepare for major Games
To read SPP's full statement, please visit their website here.