Nothing is free

DPM and Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam said that providing free, or close-to-free, social services would pass a huge burden to the middle-class citizens.
PHOTO: The Straits Times

Free healthcare and education? Not without heavily taxing the middle income, said Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam yesterday.

DPM Tharman, who was a guest speaker at the People's Action Party (PAP) rally at Petir Road, said that providing free, or close-to-free, social services would pass a huge burden to the middle-class citizens as their taxes would have to be raised to finance such a policy.

Earlier, the Singapore Democratic Party had said that it would also push for a "fair universal health insurance scheme" by raising the Government's portion of the country's healthcare expenditure from 30 per cent to 70 per cent.

DPM Tharman said: "When you think of free healthcare or close-to-free... social services that we all like the idea of, you must realise it is not free. The average citizen is paying, and paying for it big time," he said.

The same outcome would arise if the Government were to give out cash benefits - a proposal that some opposition parties have suggested, he added.

"There is no way, no way of giving something to everyone, whether it is everyone getting $300 when they get older or every child getting $300.

"There is no way of achieving it without raising taxes on the middle income group. I've been studying this for years (from)... countries around the world," he said.

The Reform Party had promised to give every Singaporean below 16 a $300 monthly child benefit and to introduce a $3 billion a year pension scheme that will give $500 a month to seniors older than 65.

Singaporeans First also proposed a monthly $300 allowance for children and the elderly, and subsidised healthcare, transport and childcare fees.

Finally, DPM Tharman said the PAP, if re-elected as the Government, would not look to raise taxes after the general election. He said such scaremongering tactics from the opposition were "just cheap".

"We have been upfront and I said it in this year's budget very clearly: We have raised the revenues we need for the next five years."


This article was first published on September 6, 2015.
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