by Augustine Low

Once they realised that it never fails to do the trick, it became a no-brainer.

Yesterday, Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong did the expected for the budget – dole out cash handouts, vouchers, rebates and top-ups for increasing the pain for Singaporeans.

People, by and large, are pleased, excited even. They forget that they are getting temporary reprieve for forever pain. Goods & Services Tax (GST) increase is forever, but that cash bonus can be gone in a jiffy.

Has profligate spending led to the necessity to raise taxes which in turn leads to the necessity to give out handouts?

If you think the money given out is a windfall from the state, think again.

These are the famous words of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher:

“The state has no source of money, other than the money people earn themselves. If the state wishes to spend more it can only do so by borrowing your savings, or by taxing you more. And it’s no good thinking that someone else will pay. That someone is you. There is no such thing as public money. There is only taxpayers’ money.”

Jewel Changi Airport – built at the cost of S$1.7 billion. Gardens by the Bay – developed for around S$1 billion and costs over S$50 million to maintain annually. Which country wouldn’t want to showcase such gleaming jewels and gardens – but at what cost to taxpayers?

Singapore Sports Hub, also developed at great cost as a public-private sector partnership which turned into a nightmare. Minister Edwin Tong last week announced the government’s completed takeover of the Sports Hub for S$100 million below the projected S$1.5 billion. Still a lot of money, still taxpayers footing the bill.

People’s Association – allocated a whooping budget of around S$800 million a year. And what about the Mayors? The Mayors are paid an annual salary of S$660,000 a year, on top of their annual Member of Parliament allowance of S$192,500.

Just a snapshot of where taxpayers’ money have been going to.

Meanwhile, GST goes up 1 per cent but everything else seems to have gone up much more. Yes, there are inflationary pressures faced by countries everywhere but GST increase is the killer, it gives businesses the opportunity to profiteer.

MediShield Life Premiums are up, healthcare bills are up, utility rates are up, ERP rates are up, public transport fares are up, and property tax is up…what else is going up? Perhaps Ministers’ pay, due for a review later this year.

Singaporeans must know there’s no such thing as a free lunch.

Why is the casino never afraid to dole out freebies to please people? Because it knows it cannot go wrong, the house always wins.

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