Heng Swee Keat Steps Into Sylvia Lim And K Shanmugam’s Argument On The GST Hike
In the most recent sitting of Parliament on Thursday (1 Mar), Law Minister K Shanmugam and Workers’ Party chairman Sylvia Lim had a little exchange of words over comments she made about the impending GST hike.
And by little exchange, we mean huge argument.
In fact, it got so heated that they were standing up to speak before being called by the Speaker.
At the end of the lexical combat, Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat took to the podium to request that Ms Lim withdraw her statement.
She stoically refused, saying that she felt there was “nothing wrong” with what she said.
“But I’ve noted his answer”, she added, referring to Mr Heng’s request.
But Mr Heng wasn’t done with the matter. No, sir.
The deliverer of this year’s Budget has released a public statement, which once again, calls for Ms Sylvia Lim to retract her statement.
But what was this allegation that got the Finance and Law Ministers all stoked up? Well, here we go.
Sylvia Lim’s Allegation
Here’s the full quote that Ms Lim had delivered in Parliament on Thursday (1 March):
“We do note that in the run-up to the Budget discussion 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 pointed out that ‘hey, you know, is this a contradiction?’
“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.”
In Parliament, Ms Lim said that the Government had floated what she called “test balloons” about the need to raise revenue.
According to her, his was done over the months leading up to the Budget announcement on 19 Feb.
The resulting public reaction was negative, with some pointing out the contradictions in that notion. After all, DPM Tharman and several PAP leaders had previously gone on record as saying that “the Government has enough money for the decade”.
Ms Lim said that she “rather suspect[ed]” that there was no alternative, and the “Government is stuck with that announcement”. Had they not, she said, the merits of a GST hike perhaps would still be discussed today.
Apparently, Mr Shanmugam and Mr Heng took Ms Lim’s comments as an insinuation that the Government would have raised the GST immediately, if not for the adverse public reaction.
To Mr Heng, Ms Lim was essentially “accusing the Government of being untruthful”, and that the GST hike was a result of bad planning.
Saying that she has now had time to check the record, Mr Heng called for an apology to the House, as “an honourable MP should”.
He ended his statement with a rhetorical question that made his perception of the Aljunied GRC MP clear.
Or does she still hold she has carte blanche to raise any and every suspicion, rumour or falsehood in Parliament, and continue to insist on them regardless of the facts?
A tad too far?
Has this matter been blown out of proportion?
After all, Ms Lim could have just been sharing her views with Parliament.
This harks back to the tiff between Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu and WP’s Leon Perera, a NCMP.
Mr Perera’s comments back then weren’t particularly egregious either.
He later apologised, but asserted that he didn’t set out to deliberately mislead the House.
This is similar to what Ms Lim said at the end of the last Parliament session.
I’ve listened to the Finance Minister’s response. I still feel that there is nothing wrong with what I’ve said. But I’ve noted his answer.
If Ms Lim does decides to retract her comments, we should expect a rehash of the above statement, with a “sorry” tacked on for good measure.
Stay tuned for more from this currently brewing story.