After Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat tabled the country’s 2019 Budget on Monday (18 February), a post-Budget television forum followed on Tuesday (19 February) where the general public got the opportunity to question the minister on the Budget.
In the hour-long forum, Mr Heng took questions from regular citizens on a variety of topics like addressing the issue where the budget seems like an election budget, how the Merdeka Generation Package motivates active lifestyle, as well as the country’s birth rates. Others raised their concerns on the high cost of living and the lack of benefit given to the middle class.
The forum was telecasted on Channel NewsAsia’s (CNA) Facebook Live. Comments section were full of netizens questioning the minister on variety of issues, and they also expressed their dissatisfaction over his answers.
There were over 500 comments received on CNA’s Facebook Live and most of them wanted the minister to answer the CPF payout age. Unfortunately, this issue was never addressed as no one in the public asked Mr Heng this question.
During the budget announcement, Mr Heng told that the goods and services tax (GST) will increase from 7 to 9 per cent. Questioning this, a member of public asked him if the government will be able to absorb the GST for essential items like food. In response, he said that, “This was very carefully studied before we introduced GST. And I took a look at it again recently when this was discussed.” However, netizens weren’t too pleased and they questioned the increase, with some requesting GST to be abolished.
Apart from that, someone from the audience also told the minister that the cost of living in Singapore is rising and asked him if the government will do anything to help the group of people who are not benefiting from packages like Merdeka Generation Package. As a response, Mr Heng said that it’s important for the government to keep costs affordable, and it is doing so by many ways, like having an open and competitive system where import comes from all around the world, as well as maintain a strong economy.
However, netizens completely disagree with him and said that cost of living is not at all affordable.
In addition to that, a citizen asked the Finance Minister what would the government do to encourage young families to have more kids. Answering this question, Mr Heng said that the government has been helping young families by providing packages like Baby Bonus Scheme, Child Development Account (CDA) and various other education subsidies. But, he also stressed that the most important thing for Singaporeans to do is to have a fundamental change in their mindset when it comes to having kids.
However, netizens feel that the high cost of living is indeed hindering them from having their own kids.
Facebook user Ashtalaxmi Dinakan wrote a detailed review of the budget and said that there are many areas of concern like CPF, protecting Singaporeans’ right, the lack of help in the budget for the middle class group, automation in industries, as well as giving lower income group more than just one time handouts. Although she felt that there are some good things in the budget, but overall it seems to have been rushed and it did not address the real concerns of the people.