NTUC confirms that survey on taxes was conducted prior to Budget 2018

Singapore’s labour union, National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) has confirmed with local newspaper, Straits Times that it had conducted a poll with its union leaders on issues such as training and taxes, ahead of the annual Budget.

According to ST,  Ong Teng Cheong Labour Leadership Institute has expressed that the feedback gathered from the poll along with other inputs gathered through focus group discussions and dialogue sessions, was used to inform NTUC workplan for the year and positions for the labour Members of Parliament.

The institute was responding to queries filed by ST on the poll that was reported by The Online Citizen on Sunday.

ST quoted Mr Steve Tan, the institute’s director, saying that the institute has been conducting an average of 10 feedback exercises each year since he started heading it in 2015. “As the voice for working people, the labour movement needs to be on top of their concerns. As such, we regularly gather feedback, both formally and informally… Naturally, this would include the national Budget,” he said.

The institute replied ST that the pre-Budget poll was conducted in November and December last year, and about 440 people responded and the questions were chosen based on issues that affect working people. It noted that taxes were “a much talked-about issue” at the time, after Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong spoke about the definite need for a tax increase at the People’s Action Party convention on 19 November last year.

The poll by NTUC asks how soon can taxes be raised, how much should it be raised and through what means.

2. When should the increase be made?

Top three results:

  • 38.4% chose “between 2021 and 2025”
  • 15.9% chose “between 2018 and 2020”
  • 12.4% chose “between 2046 and 2050”

3. Should GST be increased?

  • No. 73.8%
  • Yes. 9.9%
  • Maybe 16.3%

4. “Yes” to GST: reasonable hike %?

  • 51.2% – 1% is acceptable
  • 27.9% – 2% is acceptable
  • 14.0% – 3% is acceptable

While the institute did not say what it did with the feedback on taxes, saying that the results of its polls were not compiled and presented to the Government, it did say that it informed its labour MPs.

According to NTUC, the six labour MPs are Mr Desmond Choo, Mr Melvin Yong, Mr Ang Hin Kee, Mr Zainal Sapari, Mr Patrick Tay and Mr Heng Chee How, all of whom are MPs from the People’s Action Party. So despite claiming that the results of the poll were not presented to the Government, it is hard to imagine that the ruling party is not made known of the results. One also has to be reminded that the Secretary-General of NTUC, is Mr Chan Chun Sing who is also a Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office.

TOC had written to NTUC on 8 March for their response on whether a poll has been conducted and it has not replied till today.

Apology sought from WP MP for commenting about test balloons on GST hike

The Finance Minister, Heng Swee Keat and Minister of Law and Home Affairs, K Shanmugam sought the retraction of the statement made by Workers’ Party Chairman and MP for Aljunied GRC, Sylvia Lim on 1 March 2018 after she noted that there were some test balloons being floated about the fact that the government needs to raise revenue and suspected that the government is stuck with its 2015 announcement that GST will not be increased otherwise the Parliament would be debating a GST hike.

In response to Ms Lim’s refusal,  the government had sought Attorney’s General’s advice and subsequently, Minister of Culture, Community and Youth, Grace Fu who is also the Leader of the House demanded on 6 March that Ms Lim was to retract and apologise for her comments by end of Parliament sitting on 8 March.

On 8 March, Ms Lim announced that she will not apologise for her comments as she was speaking on behalf of her constituents. This spurred Ms Fu and Mr Heng to criticise Ms Lim for her refusal to apologise. Senior Ministers of State, Indranee Rajah and Chee Hong Tat have also issued statements of their own outside of Parliament to criticise Ms Lim’s refusal to retract her statement on the “test balloons”.