CORRECTION NOTICE: This article contains false statements of fact. For the correct facts, click here: https://www.gov.sg/article/factually150224
SINGAPORE: Mr Leong Mun Wai, the Secretary General of the Progress Singapore Party (PSP) and a Non-constituency Member of Parliament (NCMP), shed light on the harsh economic realities faced by many Singaporeans, particularly those who are unseen and struggling financially in a Facebook post on Monday, (12 Feb).
Mr Leong recounted his visit with the PSP West Coast Team to assist a resident in need. The resident, identified as Mr and Mrs Tan (pseudonyms), grappled with mobility issues, relying on limited financial assistance to make ends meet.
Despite being the festive period, Mr Leong and three dedicated PSP members visited the couple, bringing them lunch and offering support.
The couple, unable to work due to their health conditions, relied on Mrs Tan’s Caregiving Grant and a temporary goodwill allowance from a nearby temple.
However, these resources were insufficient, with their utilities alone consuming a significant portion of their combined allowance.
Mrs Tan’s ongoing health problems, including a leg operation that depleted her savings, added to their financial strain. Moreover, they faced barriers accessing additional assistance, such as transport bursaries, exacerbating their predicament.
Mr Leong wrote on his post, “I was surprised that a couple who live in a small flat were only given this level of financial support for their daily needs, and did not receive more assistance for their follow-up medical care.”
“This is the harsh economic reality faced by everyday, unseen Singaporeans who require more financial support than what is currently being given – support that the Government can comfortably afford with our current budget and reserve resources,” he said.
He emphasized the need for policy changes to address structural economic issues, particularly amid the current cost of living crisis.
“Without policy changes to address such structural economic issues, Singaporeans in the lower and middle class may find life more and more unbearable in our cost of living crisis,” he added.
Highlighting the role of PSP in advocating for policy reforms, Mr Leong affirmed the party’s commitment to questioning the government’s budget and reserve policies.
He stressed the importance of addressing the challenges faced by the lower and middle classes to ensure a more equitable society.
SG Parliament rejects PSP’s motion calling for changes in reserves policies
Previously, Parliament rejected a motion by Mr Leong aimed at reviewing Singapore’s budget and reserve policies to address the immediate needs of the current generation.
Instead, an amended motion emphasizing the government’s commitment to fiscal responsibility and sustainability in these policies was passed.
Mr Leong Mun Wai initiated a robust debate with a motion proposing fair fiscal policies, including halting new trust funds, waiving public housing land costs, and ensuring transparent reserve management for Singapore’s long-term sustainability.
The motion called for a review of the current budget and reserve accumulation policies to alleviate the financial burdens of present-day Singaporeans while safeguarding future generations’ interests.
However, Liang Eng Hwa, a People’s Action Party (PAP) Member of Parliament, proposed an amendment to the PSP’s motion.
The amended motion emphasized the importance of the government’s budget and reserve accumulation policies remaining fiscally responsible and sustainable while addressing present-day financial challenges and planning for future generations.
Mr Leong underscored the importance of transparency in disclosing reserves to Singaporeans, despite pressure from various parties. He suggested that while PAP policies aren’t necessarily bad, there’s room for improvement, advocating for policies that promise better economic outcomes without depleting reserves.
After a seven-hour debate, the amended motion passed with contributions from various MPs, including government officials. PAP MPs supported the amended motion, while opposition members, including PSP and Workers’ Party MPs, opposed it.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong weighed in on the motion, emphasizing that the decision on reserve usage ultimately lies with Singaporeans through their votes.
He challenged opposition politicians to address the matter during elections and stressed the need to balance present needs with future sustainability when managing reserves.
”The PAP will join issue with them, and convince Singaporeans that our way is the right way for Singapore,” said Mr Lee.
While rejecting the motion presented by the PSP, Mr Lee again asked: “How big a nest egg is enough? … We can never say for sure how much is enough, because we do not know what kind of crises we will face in the future, or how our investments will fare.”
“Instead, our mindset should be to treat past reserves as a precious resource that generations of Singaporeans have built up. ”
Mr Lee advocated treating past reserves as a precious resource built up by generations. The spending rule, enshrined in the Constitution, maintains a balance between current needs and future sustainability, with 50% of investment returns going toward the present and 50% for the future.
In his closing speech on the motion, Mr Leong acknowledged that the government did not dispute the reserves exceeding S$1.2 trillion. He highlighted that the cost of continued reserve accumulation could burden Singaporeans, potentially leading to higher taxes, property prices, and living costs, or lower interest for Central Provident Fund (CPF) balances, depending on the sources of the reserves’ growth.
He noted that these costs have a direct impact on significant concerns for Singaporeans, such as housing affordability, the rising cost of living, retirement adequacy, and the prospects for younger generations, among other social issues.
As the reserves have grown over the years, Singaporeans’ concerns about these issues have intensified. Mr Leong argued that the reserves, if not exacerbated, should alleviate the financial burdens of present-day Singaporeans.
He emphasized the importance of addressing these concerns promptly and the urgency to reassess the balance between the costs and benefits of reserve accumulation. If the costs of accumulating reserves surpass the benefits, he suggested that it may be necessary to slow down the rate of reserve growth marginally to reduce the financial strain on current Singaporeans.
Lastly, Mr Leong conveyed a positive message, stating that it is fortunate that Singapore does not need to deplete its reserves. A marginal reduction in the rate of reserve accumulation could lead to significantly better economic outcomes for Singaporeans.
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