Sylvia Lim’s GST “Test Balloon” Comment Has Now Drawn The Ire Of 2 More Ministers

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Ministers Request For An Apology As Evidence Stacks Against Ms Lim’s Accusations

During a recent Parliamentary session, Workers’ Party’s Chairman Sylvia Lim said some not-so-nice things about the Government and the oh-so controversial GST hike. Not only did this invoke the wrath of Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam, her statements got Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat pretty upset as well.

Unfortunately, it seems like her comments had offended more than just the pair.

Because just a few days later, Senior Minister of State for Finance and Law Indranee Rajah and Leader of the House Grace Fu entered the fray as well.

What could they – at this point – say to Ms Lim what Mr Shanmugam and Mr Heng haven’t already said?

You’re about to find out.

Sylvia Lim’s suspicions

Before we get to that however, let’s refresh ourselves on what was said exactly by Ms Lim that triggered the series of replies.

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On Thursday (1 Mar), Ms Lim expressed her suspicions that the Government had intentions of implementing an immediate GST hike as opposed to that from 2021 to 2025.

She stated that this was evident from the “test balloons” sent out prior to Mr Heng’s Budget announcement.

We do note that in the run-up to the Budget discussion that there were some test balloons being floated out about the fact that the Government needs to raise revenue. And immediately the public seized on the fact that DPM Tharman and perhaps other leaders had earlier said that the Government has enough money for the decade. So the public point out that “hey, you know, is this a contradiction?”

But she ultimately stated that they refrained from doing so due to the following:

  • Overwhelmingly negative reaction from the public
  • DPM Tharman Shanmugaratnam stating that Singapore had enough money til 2020

And I rather suspect myself that the Government is stuck with that announcement, otherwise, you know, if their announcement had not been made, perhaps we would be debating a GST hike today.

Understandably, such accusations is bound to ruffle the feathers of those involved — just look at Mr Shanmugam and Mr Heng’s reply to Ms Lim.

But that’s last week’s news. Let’s look at this week’s development in the form of Ms Indranee and Ms Fu.

Indranee Rajah’s wall of evidence

On Monday (5 Mar), Ms Indranee posted the following on her Facebook:

Where she gave us a history lesson of quotes from various minsters, including PM Lee, proving that an immediate GST hike was never in any of the Government’s plans, and that all statements made were in the context of doing so in the future.

She also accused Ms Lim of abusing her parliamentary privilege.

Parliamentary privilege is not a blanket permission to simply make allegations which are untrue or without basis. Keeping quiet and letting them be made freely would be the wrong thing to do.

But back to evidence, here’s a brief look at the cases presented.

1. PM Lee, National Day Rally 2013

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First up was during the 2013 National Day Rally when PM Lee talked about Singapore’s then-stable financial status.

For now, we can afford these measures from existing revenues. In the longer term, their costs will rise, especially healthcare costs.

But added that costs would only increase in the future and stated that the Government has to be ready.

We have to realise this, we have to be prepared to pay for this, whether by raising taxes, whether by cutting back on other spending, if we want to keep the social safety nets and the programmes.

Seems like the GST hike might’ve already been forecasted five years ago.

2. DPM Tharman, Budget Round Up 2014

Next was DPM Tharman in 2014 when he too stated that spending needs would rise in the future.

We must be prepared for the years ahead and build up our revenues for the spending needs of the next decade and beyond.

And that Singapore has to be prepared for beyond this decade.

3. DPM Tharman, Budget 2015

One year later, DPM Tharman mentioned during his budget speech that the Government had planned out their budget for the year.

Based on current projections, the revenue measures we have undertaken will provide sufficiently for the increased spending needs we have planned for til the end of this decade.

There was also enough funds to last us until the end of 2020, which incidentally happens to be within the range of expected dates for the GST hike to kick in.

4. Minister Heng, Budget Statement 2017

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At last year’s Budget Statement, Mr Heng talked about the importance of planning ahead due to the increased costs of living.

In the coming years, we expect expenditure needs to rise rapidly, particularly in healthcare and infrastructure.

And added that revenues will have to be raised one way or another.

We will have to raise revenues through new taxes or rise tax rates.

Little did he know that change would be announced just a year later.

5. PM Lee, PAP Convention 2017

Lastly, PM Lee ended off last year’s PAP Convention with this infamous statement:

For this current term of government, we have enough revenue. But our spending needs will grow. So Heng Swee Keat was right when he said that raising taxes is not a matter of whether, but a matter of when.

He was right.

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Concluding her post, Ms Indranee insisted that there wasn’t any contradiction or backtracking like Ms Lim had said.

Raising taxes is never a popular measure. No government likes to do it.

As such, her allegation made “no sense” as the Government had long already foretold the GST hike.

Grace Fu wants an apology

If that wasn’t enough, on Tuesday (6 Mar), Ms Fu took to the stands and requested for Ms Lim to withdraw her allegations.

She also asked for her to apologise to the House before end of the Parliament’s sitting on Thursday (8 Mar).

Seeing as how Mr Shanmugam and Mr Heng had already explained their rationale, Ms Fu stated that Ms Lim’s suspicions had no basis whatsoever.

She also added – as did Ms Indranee – that the Government had already talked about increasing taxes since the 2013 National Day Rally five years ago.

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Furthermore, Ms Fu labelled Ms Lim as a dishonourable Member of Parliament (MP).

And when clear factual replies have been given, an honourable MP should either refute them with further facts, or acknowledge them and withdraw their allegations, especially if their allegations had insinuated a lack of candour or wrongdoing on the part of the Government.

Referencing how she had not yet checked on past records when questioned by Mr Heng.

Which is why she is calling for her to not only withdraw her claims, but to apologise to the Parliament House as well.

What will Sylvia do?

At the time of this article, Ms Lim currently has two days to make her response.

Will she back up her words with evidence of what she had claimed? Or will she follow fellow party member Leon Perera in his footsteps?

What will she do?

Good news is we don’t have to wait long to find out.

Featured image from Gov.sg, Gov.sg and ChannelNewsAsia’s Facebook.

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