16 January 2011

Giving Budget Goodies? Focus On The Disadvantaged

The government plans to share the good budget surplus in its current fiscal year that ends on 31 March 2011.

When the budget surplus is shared with citizens, the primary focus should be on giving more generous assistance to more categories of people at the lower end of the income spectrum and others who are disadvantaged.

Who are the disadvantaged among us?  The following are some examples.

One-fifth of all employed residents (or 400,100) earn less than the ultra low wage of $1,200 a month.  These include 262,700 engaged in full-time employment and the majority of the 86,600 under-employed (persons working part-time for economic reasons, not by choice). [1]

19.5 per cent of resident households in three-room or smaller HDB flats do not have any working members, compared to only 5.5 per cent of resident households in larger HDB flats. [2][3]

Single parents of approximately 550 children born every year are denied some forms of financial assistance available to married parents.  Yet, they are as Singaporean as other families. [4]

Fewer than 0.2 per cent of the approximately 18,000 autistic individuals aged 19 years and older receive help at specialised centres. [5]

There are others.

The remainder of the budget surplus should be held in reserve so that the GST rate will not need to be increased in the foreseeable future.

Already, the government intends to defray the $1 billion cost of upgrading of the MRT signalling system [6].  It seems illogical to ignore the more than $1.6 billion Land Transport Authority collected from the reduced supply of Certificates of Entitlement in 2010, inasmuch as both are interconnected pieces of the overall land transportation solution.

Next, the government has said that Singapore should start building up its reserves again, make good what was spent last year (such as the $4.5 billion Jobs Credit Scheme) and a little bit more, and put a little aside in good years [7].  The best time to do this is when there is a huge budget surplus, especially when some of the surplus is derived from tax on the Jobs Credit in the hands of the recipients.

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Notes:

1.  Singapore Workforce, 2010.

2.  Key Household Income Trends, 2009.

3.  Population Trends, 2010.

4.  "Get Real: Single By Choice", Channel News Asia, 27 December 2010.

5.  "Get Real: My Not So Sweet 21", Channel News Asia, 6 December 2010.

6.  "A 'better' way to manage PRs: SM Goh", TODAY, 7 September 2010.

7.  Speech by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at the May Day Rally 2010, 1 May 2010.

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