MPs talk about the Budget in Parliament

MPs debated in Parliament over the Budget yesterday (3 March) and its direction towards the “left”, a term rarely discussed in Singapore politics.

Among other things, left-wing politics accept or support social equality.

As with any debate, some were in favour of the Budget, and some, well, weren’t.

Nominated MP Chia Yong Yong made an interesting play on words while talking about the Budget (she largely disagreed with the social spending).

“…I would also argue that if we lean too much to the left, we will not have much left.”

– Nominated MP Chia Yong Yong

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Meanwhile, WP MP Sylvia Lim applauded the direction the Budget was heading.

This Budget explicitly talks about strengthening social safety nets. This suggests a shift to the left, a direction that I believe is right.

-Workers’ Party Aljunied MP Sylvia Lim

She also argued for more taxing of the rich to fund further government spending. Classic leftist.

Transparency needed, increased social spending a concern

Meanwhile, Holland-Bukit Timah GRC MP Liang Eng Hwa also liked the left-leaning policy of the Budget, but wanted more transparency on the Silver Support scheme and its funds.

Other MPs weren’t so sure about the increased social spending.

”While I am happy for those (getting more support), I am ill at ease over the ability of future governments to sustain such programmes.”

– West Coast GRC MP Arthur Fong

Bishan-Toa Payoh MP Hri Kumar feared that adding Temasek Holdings’ expected returns to the government budget meant there would not be another line of reserves in case of deficits.

”After Temasek, there is no ‘next’.”

– Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC MP Hri Kumar

He was referring to the inclusion of Temasek Holdings’ expected returns into our Budget, which is expected to add about S$4-5 billion to government funds per year.

He was also uncomfortable with the perception that the Government should take care of every citizen’s problems.

“As long as the mindset among Singaporeans is that the Government must have the solution to everything, the country’s social contract will always be under pressure to be rewritten for the benefit of one or more groups.”

– Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC MP Hri Kumar

Concerns were also raised about the increased help from the Government leading to potential lack of future saving from citizens.

“Singaporeans will become over-reliant on this source of revenue, and lose the drive to safe and invest, and leave something for future generations”

– Marine Parade GRC MP Tin Pei Ling

She made comparisons to countries with abundant natural resources where populations have lose their urgency to work hard, and made the following warning:

“Singapore must take care that our financial reserves can also have the same corrupting effect on our drive and resilience”

– Marine Parade GRC MP Tin Pei Ling

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The government’s precarious balancing act

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Between reducing social inequality and preserving economic competitiveness while ensuring that reserves are not depleted, the Government has decided to walk a tightrope which may do more harm than good in the long run.

To ensure that the government can still provide for the low-income group and elderly, the right decisions have to be made on where the funding is acquired, and investments from Temasek Holdings and GIC are not infallible. The next move may be to increase taxes further to fund the increased social spending, something not many will be pleased to hear.

So how?  ¯_(ツ)_/¯

The debate in Parliament continues today.

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Featured image via TteckK via Wikipedia Commons
With references from Channel NewsAsia, Channel NewsAsia, The Straits Times, The Straits Times, Channel NewsAsia