7 in 10 support Budget measures, pioneer generation package: Reach survey

The two most well-supported announcements were the pioneer package, which 70 per cent agreed would ensure affordable healthcare for seniors aged 65 and up; and more subsidies for people with disabilities, which 73 per cent agreed would provide significant support for lower- and middle-income families.

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Read the full statement from Reach here:

Seven in 10 Singaporeans surveyed in the REACH Budget Poll supported the initiatives announced in Budget 2014, with the same number agreeing that the new Pioneer Generation Package (PGP) will ensure affordable healthcare for Singaporeans aged 65 and above.

These were among the findings of REACH's annual post-Budget Poll, a telephone poll with 946 randomly selected citizens, aged 20 years and above. The sample was weighted to ensure representativeness of the Singapore population in terms of age, gender and ethnicity. The Budget Poll was carried out from 24 February to 6 March 2014 to gauge Singaporeans' reactions to Budget 2014, with a 2.88 per cent margin of error at a 95 per cent confidence level.

REACH's Budget Poll showed that, besides the PGP, other Budget measures towards building A Fair and Equitable Society, such as Greater Support for Persons with Disabilities and Support for Older Singaporeans also received broad support. Below are the key findings from the Budget Poll:

- More than 7 in 10, or 73 per cent of respondents agreed that the subsidies for persons with disabilities and their care-givers, such as enhanced subsidies for the Early Intervention Programme for Infants and Children (EIPIC), additional transport subsidies, and Enhanced Handicapped Dependent reliefs, will provide significant support for lower- and middle-income households.

- Close to 7 in 10 (68 per cent) of respondents agreed that the increase in CPF employer contribution rates for older workers is a step in the right direction. In addition to the 1 percentage point increase in Medisave contribution rate for all workers, older workers aged 50 to 55 will see their CPF contribution rates raised by 1.5 percentage points, while those aged 55 to 65 will see an increase of 0.5 percentage points.

- 65 per cent agreed that the enhanced subsidies for pre-school and bursaries for tertiary education will provide significant financial support for lower- and middle-income households.

- 64 per cent of respondents agreed that the increase in healthcare subsidies and employer CPF contributions by 1 percentage point to Medisave will significantly improve healthcare affordability for lower- and middle-income Singaporeans.

- conservancy charges will provide significant help for older lower-income Singaporeans and HDB dwellers.

The telephone poll findings are largely aligned with the feedback received on REACH platforms and engagement sessions.

Similar to the high level of support for the PGP in the telephone poll, REACH contributors lauded the PGP as a "strong commitment" by the Government to look after the pioneer generation in their golden years.

There was also appreciation towards the additional support for persons with disabilities. However, some called for more help to be extended to the mentally disabled as well as additional healthcare subsidies for children with special needs.

There were also some concerns that increase in the CPF contribution rates for older workers might lead to a rise in elderly unemployment as it could make hiring older workers more costly.

On measures to enhance healthcare affordability, many welcomed the enhanced healthcare subsidies, though some REACH contributors called for more sustainable ways to manage rising healthcare costs.

Contributors had some reservations on the 1 percentage point increase in employers' contributions to Medisave as they noted that employers will have to deal with higher overheads. There were also calls for more flexible use of Medisave for outpatient treatments, scans and non-standard medication, with some of these requests subsequently addressed in the Ministry of Health's Committee of Supply debate on the expansion of Medisave usage.

Economic & Taxation Measures

The poll results also reflected support towards economic and taxation measures:

- About 1 in 2 polled (53 per cent) agreed that Budget initiatives to help businesses restructure and improve productivity will result in better jobs and higher wages for Singaporeans.

- More than 3 in 5 respondents (64 per cent) agreed with the move to raise taxes for liquor, tobacco and betting duties to help avoid excessive consumption in these areas, whilst 1 in 5 polled (19 per cent) disagreed.

REACH contributors recognised that help rendered to businesses through the Budget initiatives will continue to be useful, in particular, the extension and enhancements made to the Productivity and Innovation Credit scheme. However, some business owners have also called for more Government assistance in managing business costs.

On the increased duties for liquor, tobacco and betting, similar sentiments were observed on REACH platforms, where the majority of those who gave their feedback said they were in favour of the increased taxes, while others felt it would have a limited impact in curbing consumption amongst heavy users or consumers.

Senior Minister of State for Health and Manpower and REACH Chairman Dr Amy Khor said, "This year's Budget has received strong support on many fronts, and I am encouraged that the findings of the telephone poll affirm this. The Pioneer Generation Package, which is the centrepiece of the Budget this year, has drawn much discussion on REACH platforms. Not only are the pioneers assured of affordable healthcare, the younger generation also indirectly benefit as it would ease some of their financial commitment for their parents' healthcare costs."

Dr Khor added, "There have been concerns raised on the issue of outreach to raise awareness of the Budget initiatives. While many ministries have provided details at the recent Committee of Supply Debate, more can and will be done to communicate and help Singaporeans understand these benefits. In doing so, I hope that Singaporeans are assured of the Government's efforts to build a better future for themselves and their children."