In the past, whenever the SO whinged about how crappy Singapore is (in terms of lack of space & ample idiots on public transport), I used to tell him that at least he wasn't paying ridiculous income tax and GST rates like he would back home.
But now we will just be 3% below Australia's current 10% GST rate (which is looking to fall soon).
Coming from a predominately welfare state, it is easy to see where the Australians' tax is going to: medical care, even to rural areas with services such as The Royal Flying Doctor Service, government-funded loans for higher education, financial assistance for students/unemployed/disabled, protecting natural resources (such as national parks and heritage sites), etc.
What about us? What programs and legislation do we have in place that supports the diverse needs of our citizens?
And reading some of the comments MPs made just made my blood boil.
"The GST can't stay at 5% forever, and it is already much higher in other countries." - HRI Kumar, MP for Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC
OK, if you wanna compare with other countries, let's do it right and similarly compare the GST rate and the corresponding country's "social safety nets" policies.
In Hong Kong with GST capped at 5%, health accounts for 11% of their national budget, making health promotive and preventive care services almost free. Patients in general wards are charged only $7.00 a day, and at some clinics charges are as low as 13 cents. Education takes up one-fifth of public expenditure and provides for nine years of free and universal basic education.
In Canada with a 6% GST charge (previously 7% before July 1, 2006), they have so many welfare programs, it's brain-boggling to just look at it.
So where is this money from our GST going to? At 5%, our GST generated SG$3.5 billion between 2004-2005. Where has all this money gone? What "social safety nets" are there? Why do so many welfare organisations, such as NKF have to resort to hard-selling donation campaigns for more money? Isn't the government helping them support our needy?
All I have seen is the foreign ventures in China, the integrated resorts, new shopping malls, privatising HDB flats and price hikes in public transport.
How does any of this help the people in the lower income bracket?
Mr Lee called "welfare" a "dirty word".
Welfare is 'the statutory procedure or social effort designed to promote the basic physical and material well-being of people in need.'
Which part of it is 'dirty'?
I'm not asking for us to become a welfare state, but if the reasonale behind this increase is to improve social welfare, then I would like to see policies in place to:
- Initiate a strong network for home hospice care for the disabled and the elderly, so they can still enjoy a family environment
- Promote minimum wage for lower income-generating jobs, to prevent labour abuse
- Providing a public system of childcare for single parent families
- Increase subsidies for primary and secondary education, to ensure no child leaves school without N/O level education
Perhaps this is too much to ask of this new government, but while spending on R&D is all well and good, all that R&D is useless if the people aren't being taken care of first.