Opposition seeks more help for elderly, middle class

Opposition seeks more help for elderly, middle class
Dr Chee Soon Juan, secretary-general of the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP), speaking to the press on 15 January 2013.

Opposition parties and activists welcomed the initiatives in the 2015 Budget but want more to be done for a range of groups, including the elderly and the middle class.

While they lauded measures like the raising of income tax by two percentage points on the rich and the halving of the concessionary maid levy to $60, they urged even bolder action on these fronts.

The Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) said last Wednesday that the 2015 Budget, presented by Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam last Monday, shifted the Government to a "less extreme elitist position".

Noting that it has advocated raising taxes on the rich and more financial help for the elderly poor for many years, the SDP said the Government's move towards such policies shows why Singaporeans should support the opposition.

Among the headline initiatives of Budget 2015 was the Silver Support Scheme, which gives the bottom 20 per cent of those aged 65 and older a basic pension of $600 per quarter on average for the rest of their lives.

The National Solidarity Party (NSP) wants the Silver Support Scheme to be extended to all senior citizens, not just the poorest.

While welcoming the Budget's efforts to prop up the middle class through rebates, waivers and concessions, it said that these one-off measures do not go far enough.

"NSP believes that the need for government handouts would be greatly diminished if substantive measures are taken to effectively lower the cost of living such as reducing the goods and services tax," it said.

The Singapore Justice Party (SJP) is worried about the hike in the Central Provident Fund (CPF) salary ceiling to $6,000 from $5,000.

Mr Tharman said the move was to help Singaporeans save more for retirement.

But it will make hiring Singaporeans more costly for employers, the SJP said, increasing the risk of foreigners getting jobs over locals.

The Democratic Progressive Party argued for wealth redistributive measures to be made permanent, rather than just one-off handouts from Budget to Budget.

It called for a "self-sustaining, self-operating, systemic wealth redistribution set of policies in job creation, minimum wage, affordable public services, etc".

Migrant worker welfare group Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics (Home) lauded the pause in raising foreign worker levies.

Mr Tharman had said that would give businesses some breathing space but did not mean any change of policy direction.

The group wants levies to be abolished completely, owing to the danger of employers passing on the higher costs to low-wage foreign workers with little bargaining power.

It also lamented the lack of health-care or cultural initiatives to support the low-wage foreign workforce here which, it noted, formed 20 per cent of the population.

rchang@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on Mar 1, 2015.
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