Besides the woes of the Singapore Mass Rapid Transit company and the spotlight that is now shone on certain undesirable practices within the Singapore Armed Forces, another issue that is plaguing the government is the issue of Good & Service Tax increment. The raising of taxes will never be popular with the citizens of any country and Singapore is not unique in this.
While tax increments will never be welcomed with open arms, they can be grudgingly accepted if there really is a need for taxes to be raised. In the Singapore context, is there really a need?
It is common knowledge that Singapore’s ministers are among the best paid in the world. If the nation’s coffers are really in need of a cash injection, has the government also considered cutting its own salaries to meet some of the need and share in the tightening of the belts that it is asking average Singaporeans to suck up?
One might argue that GST, being a consumption tax, will also tax the rich. But, let’s be realistic – it would definitely affect the less rich portion of our population much more. It is not as if there are GST exemptions on necessities in Singapore. So as it stands, GST will penalise the poor more than the rich.
Detractors might further argue that GST vouchers alleviate the effects of the GST on poorer families but let’s remember, GST vouchers do not cover basic necessities such as sanitary pads or food – so, the net effect is that a GST increment within a GST structure that doesn’t provide exemptions on basic necessities will affect the poor much more than the rich.
This brings us back to the original question – if the government wants to boost the state coffers, lead by example! Our neighbour across the causeway is already leading the way.
Secondly, what of the lack of transparency within Temasek? To what extent do the rumoured losses within Temasek affect the financial health of Singapore? I am asking because I simply do not know. Information on this area is notoriously difficult to obtain or make sense of.
Until issues such as Temasek’s financial information or ministerial salaries are resolved, it is unlikely that GST hikes will go down well. This is especially so in light of progressive developments in Malaysia, a country that quite literally borders ours.