State support for both young and old: Heng

IN THE first 18 months of a newborn's life, his parents can receive at least $15,000 for his care from the Government.

A retiree living in a three-room or larger Housing Board flat received on average $5,000 in state transfers last year, mostly in the form of healthcare subsidies.

These figures were given yesterday by Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat to illustrate the extent to which the young are given a good footing to achieve their potential, and the elderly to grow old gracefully.

Middle-income earners are not forgotten in the Government's effort to support all Singaporeans.

Many of them pay little or no income tax, receive support in housing and healthcare, and can use SkillsFuture credits to pay for courses to upgrade themselves.

"All these measures are not as direct as putting money in people's pocket but it has a more meaningful long-term impact on the careers and future of Singaporeans.

"The most important support for all Singaporeans, including the middle-income, is employability and good jobs," he said, as he wrapped up the three-day Parliament debate on this year's Budget.

The Government's goal is to build an inclusive, resilient society that cares for its members, he added, noting that the lower-income families receive more.

Mr Heng focused on these three groups yesterday, especially young children and seniors, as several MPs had championed their cause.

He listed the monetary help given to babies as well as education subsidies for school-going young children.

Seniors can also feel assured about meeting their basic daily needs with the Silver Support scheme, which gives the elderly poor a basic allowance to supplement their income.

But payouts will be made every three months and in advance instead of every month because this gives seniors the flexibility to manage their expenses, Mr Heng said in response to suggestions from MPs.

Equally important are the programmes for the poor and needy.

He cited the Business and Institution of Public Character Partnership scheme that encourages businesses to partner charities, as one of several programmes to encourage volunteerism.

But even as state support increases, Singaporeans should hold on to their spirit of self-reliance.

"We must be cautious that Silver Support does not undermine values like filial piety, or lead to a 'why he gets, I don't get' mentality."

He also encouraged Singaporeans to take care of each other and solve community problems as one.

"Ultimately, it is not about government schemes but building a caring and resilient society," he said.

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