Ministry Of Finance Needs Your Feedback On Budget 2018 To Solve Problems Nobody Knows How To Solve
Because complaining is a national pastime in Singapore, the government now wishes to channel your complaints to more constructive outlets — planning Budget 2018.
In other words, they want you to help them generate ideas for solutions to the problems they need to solve for you. Genius.
The Ministry of Finance (MOF) has even upped the stakes this year by releasing an advertisement to promote how easy it is to let the government know what you think.
A pun-filled ‘pawsitive’ video, featuring an adorable cat called Smarty is paw-ssibly a good effort to promote active citizenship and feedback. Problem is, the advertisement doesn’t really address what we’re supposed to talk about.
You can view it here, for the sake of Smarty at least.
The video highlights two issues very briefly, raising questions about building a SmartNation and lifelong learning for practically everyone.
But it’s mostly focused on how simple it is to give feedback this year, with the message of “Even Smarty can do it, right?”.
Although that’s endearingly cute, it does serve to draw the attention away from the real issues at hand.
Huh, what feedback?
Traditionally, MOF seeks public feedback for our national budget for the next fiscal year, via feedback sessions conducted by REACH, a governmental agency under the Ministry of Communications and Information.
To be fair, MOF has clarified,
Individuals, households, and businesses are welcome to feedback on how our businesses can compete, how our people can seize new opportunities, how we care for and support one another, and how we plan for future needs.
Unfortunately, these are very general guidelines which do not address specific issues.
Although it’s good to be welcoming to all sorts of ideas, it’s hard for Singaporeans to give constructive feedback if we don’t know what actual taxation schemes or policies the government wishes to focus on.
Judging by the current submissions thus far, some netizens have asked for more childcare leave or $1000 SkillsFuture credits for those who are 40 and above.
Without a general direction provided, the budget feedback session does seem more like a free-for-all Christmas wishlist than a constructive public discussion.
That said, what feedback is REACH is really looking for?
We have to talk about raising taxes
Hidden among these public posts is REACH’s official guide on what feedback they hope to garner.
In summary, REACH is seeking feedback for the following points:
- Building a technologically ready society
- Supporting local firms’ innovation
- Retraining and upskilling workers
- Encouraging the community to care for the elderly
- Educating Singaporeans to plan for their futures
- Promoting volunteerism among individuals and businesses
- Financing government expenditure to deal with growing social needs
Well that’s clear. We can only wonder why these points are not promoted at the forefront of this year’s advertising campaign for Budget 2018.
Tax issues are also ranked dead last on REACH’s list, although they are arguably the most directly related to Budget 2018 compared to the others on the list.
This could be because ‘financing government expenditure’ actually refers to the possibility of raising taxes — a touchy issue that most citizens dread.
Perhaps it’s more strategically placed than we thought.
A formality to appease citizens?
As the government has yet to outline possible solutions to pressing issues faced by Singaporeans, it’s no wonder that this feedback session seems overly broad in context.
With no limit to the issues brought to the fore, the focus of the feedback session also risks being shifted from the realm of constructive public debate to something less helpful.
Hopefully, when live Q&A sessions are held next year, facilitators will help guide Singaporeans in discussing more pertinent problems, like our public transport’s infrastructure, possible GST hikes, CPF issues and healthcare matters.
Otherwise, the yearly budget feedback session may risk becoming a formality to appease citizens instead of a constructive way to pinpoint public spheres which require immediate financial help.
Ways to be heard
If you do have burning opinions about anything at all, here are some ways you can go about making them heard.
From 4 Dec 2017 to 12 Jan 2018, REACH wants everyone’s feedback via these channels:
- Singapore Budget Website
- REACH Microsite
- REACH Discussion Forum
- Live Q&A Session from REACH’s Facebook page (4 Jan 2018, 8:00pm to 9:00pm)
- Hashtag #SGBudget2018 in your tweets to @REACH_Singapore
- Email them at [email protected]
- Call them at 1800-353-5555 (Weekdays, 8:30am to 5:45pm)
- SMS them at 9773 2587
- Go to a Listening Point near you to chitchat with a REACH officer.
Talking about the things that matter
Thankfully, there’s one firm we can rely on to kickstart this debate with actual material for discussion.
Most of us probably weren’t aware of accounting firm Deloitte’s valiant 39-page feedback report for Budget 2017 last year.
They deserve major props for submitting a comprehensive report complete with graphs, charts and thousands of words detailing their views on everything from healthcare to fiscal policy.
So here’s a note to the big G, we are truly grateful for this avenue to express our opinions.
But next time, instead of relying on a cute ‘pawsitive’ cat mascot, throwing some solutions up for discussion would be an effective way to get Singaporeans talking as well.