Budget 2017: Social measures 'all add up to give respite'

Budget 2017: Social measures 'all add up to give respite'
GST vouchers, rebates and top-ups to various assistance funds announced as part of Budget 2017 offer needy households a much-needed respite, said MP Seah Kian Peng, who chairs the Government Parliamentary Committee for Social and Family Development.
PHOTO: The Straits Times

GST vouchers, rebates and top-ups to various assistance funds announced as part of Budget 2017 offer needy households a much-needed respite, said MP Seah Kian Peng, who chairs the Government Parliamentary Committee for Social and Family Development.

"There are quite a number of things introduced this year, some of which are permanent features to help the households.

"Sometimes, we take it for granted, but they all add up," he told The New Paper yesterday.

On Monday, Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat said the Government will provide more than $850 million in additional funds this year to lend households a hand.

Other than a permanent increase in the utility bill rebate to help offset higher water tariffs, eligible recipients also get a one-off cash special payment on top of their regular GST Voucher cash payment.

The service and conservancy charges rebate will be extended, and there is a personal income tax rebate.

The Medifund, GST Voucher Fund and ComCare Fund will also be topped up.

Mr Seah said: "The top-ups to the various funds means that those who need help will continue to get help.

"As the economy continues to show weakness and there are more layoffs, we know that at least there are funds out there, that the Government will take measures to help.

"But, of course, our work is never done."

Photo: Ministry of Finance

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SIGNIFICANT

National University of Singapore sociologist Tan Ern Ser called the household support measures significant, taken together with other previously introduced policies.

"At the very least, these goodies could help to offset expected rise in household expenses," said the associate professor.

Agreeing, Fei Yue Community Services' director, Mr Arthur Ling, said any scheme that provides for low-income families is always helpful.

He told TNP: "Whether it's substantial would depend on the individual needs of the families. To us, there is no one solution that can solve all the problems."

Mr Ling also thinks there can be more support for children of low-income families in terms of holistic education.

This means subsidies for good tuition programmes or even paid "befrienders'"services - possible long-term solutions that come as a high cost, he said.

The community can also step up to help, said Mr Seah as he reiterated Mr Heng's call on Monday to strengthen the "gotong-royong spirit".

He said: "Our systems are progressive, whether it's income tax or social assistance - those who need more help will get more help.

"To me, the genesis is really about getting Singaporeans who can to contribute more, be it through money or volunteering.

"Of course, the Government has a big role to play. But they alone can't solve all the problems.

"We need other parts of the community to step up so overall, we become a caring and inclusive society."

fjieying@sph.com.sg

 

 

Read also: 
Higher grants for first-time buyers of HDB resale flats
Budget 2017: 5 things that may affect you directly
Singapore to raise water price by 30 per cent over two years


This article was first published on Feb 22, 2017.
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