Sunday, May 24, 2015Sunday, May 24, 2015

Budget Debate 2014 | March 3 onwards

Starting from March 3, Parliament will debate the Budget statement which was delivered by Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam. Stay tuned for our complete coverage here.

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There has been progress in fixing housing issues and taking care of the elderly, but there remains more to be done in transport, manpower and health, said Leader of the House Ng Eng Hen in Parliament on Thursday.
Every case of a down-and-out Singaporean that appears on social media or in the newspapers is followed up on by the Ministry of Social and Family Development, its minister Chan Chun Sing said on Thursday.
More families will benefit from kindergarten subsidies, and lower-income households will receive more help than before. Minister for Social and Family Development Chan Chun Sing gave more details of the changes to the Kindergarten Fee Assistance Scheme (KiFAS) in Parliament on Thursday.
More than 50,000 children with special needs and people with disabilities will soon receive more help from the Government to the tune of $56 million a year, said Parliamentary Secretary for Social and Family Development Low Yen Ling on Thursday in Parliament.
A new programme for parents thinking about divorce will be introduced, to ensure that their children's needs are considered before divorce proceedings.
The use of Medisave will be significantly expanded to help people meet their outpatient treatment needs.
The police may get more teeth to deal with public nuisances in the neighbourhood, with the Government looking into legislative changes to deal with the issue.
The premiums that lower- and middle-income households will have to pay for the new Medishield Life insurance that kicks in next year, will be the same or lower than what they now pay.
The recent hospital bed crunch raises serious questions about patient safety and the adequacy of health-care infrastructure, said Workers' Party chief Low Thia Khiang in a hard-hitting speech during the debate on the Health Ministry's budget on Wednesday.
The first intake of the new volunteer youth corps will start their training in June, after recruitment started last month.
From May, Singapore will have a new Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) that includes tiny, hazardous particles referred to as PM2.5. We look what is PM2.5, and why it matters.
National Sports Associations (NSAs) with novel plans can now tap on a $25 million "ideas fund".
Voluntary welfare organisations (VWOs) keen to use the arts in programmes for their beneficiaries can soon tap a new fund from the Government.
The Government will commit $1.5 billion to give Singaporeans easier access to sports and recreational facilities by 2030.
The Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth will pour more than $65 million into museums and cultural institutions, to upgrade facilities such as the Esplanade and National Museum.
Giving Changi Airport a third runway is proving more challenging than expected.
Budget 2014 | The Straits Times

Budget Speech 2014 | Feb 21

Both individuals and companies got good news in this year's Budget, with the Pioneer Generation Package taking centre stage. It includes health-care subsidies, Medisave top-ups and other benefits.

Singapore Budget Roundtable 2014:
Plenty of goodies, but implementation is key, say panellists

By Fiona Chan

(From left) MR HO MENG KIT, CEO, Singapore Business Federation; MS GAN KWEE LIAN, tax partner, KPMG; MR JIMMY KOH, UOB's head of economic-treasury research and investor relations; MS FIONA CHAN, ST's senior economics correspondent; DR MARY ANN TSAO, chairman, Tsao Foundation; MR JEREMY LIM, Head of Asia-Pacific health and life sciences at Oliver Wyman; and DR LILY NEO, Member of Parliament. -- ST PHOTO: LAU FOOK KONG

This year's Budget brings welcome relief for elderly Singaporeans, workers and companies alike, but the devil will be in the details.

Panellists at The Straits Times Budget Roundtable last Saturday said careful implementation will be important to make sure the benefits get to individuals and businesses in need, as some may not know how to access them.

The Pioneer Generation Package and measures to help with health-care costs in particular were welcomed, as these will lessen cost pressures on individual families and help strengthen inter-generational bonds, said Tsao Foundation chairman Mary Ann Tsao and Member of Parliament Lily Neo.

UOB's head of economic-treasury research and investor relations Jimmy Koh added that Budget 2014 continues the Government's recent trend of giving more help to older and lower-income Singaporeans, while health-care consultant Jeremy Lim of Oliver Wyman said the new initiatives should nudge society towards taking better care of each other.

However, some of the announced moves will put more pressure on local companies struggling with rising costs and they could do with more help, said Singapore Business Federation chief executive Ho Meng Kit and KPMG tax partner Gan Kwee Lian.

Watch the videos for details:

Post Budget round-up by Maria Almenoar

Five ways the measures announced in Budget 2014 will affect you

  • 1. To qualify for the Pioneer Generation, you must have been at least 16 years old in 1965. Anyone who qualifies will get the benefits regardless of income and will get them for the rest of their lives. In total about 450,000 Singaporeans fulfil the criteria. Those who have just missed out may appeal.

    2. The Pioneer Generation will get an additional 50 per cent off already subsidised bills at specialist outpatient clinics and polyclinics. This will start in September. In addition, from January next year, they will all qualify for the Community Health Assist Scheme (CHAS) which provides accessible and affordable medical and dental care.

    3. From August, the Pioneer Generation will get annual Medisave top-ups of $200 to $800. They will also be given more flexibility to use their Medisave for a wide range of outpatient treatments.

    4. All Pioneer Generation members will be covered under MediShield Life. Subsidies will be given according to age to ensure premiums for this scheme are affordable. At age 65, the subsidies will start at 40 per cent of the premium and will rise to 60 per cent by age 90. This will start end-2015. Those aged 80 and above in 2014 will have their premiums fully covered through premium subsidies and Medisave top-ups.

    5. Those who have moderate to severe functional disabilities will get $1,200 cash a year.

  • 1. Lower- and middle-income families will get more help with kindergarten fees through the Kindergarten Fee Assistance Scheme (KiFAS). This means that more households will pay just $3 a month, down from as much as $75 previously.

    2. The KiFAS scheme will be made available to all kindergarten anchor operators and all Education Ministry kindergartens.

    3. Bursary amounts for students at the Institute of Technical Education, polytechnic and university level will be increased. For example, students from middle-income homes will see a $450 increase in their bursary amounts to $2,600 a year.

    4. More students will also be eligible for bursaries. The Government is raising the per capita monthly household income threshold for bursaries from $1,700 to $1,900 from this academic year 2014. This will benefit students from two-thirds of all Singaporean households.

    5. Families of children with special needs will get more subsidies for the Early Intervention Programme for Infants and Children. This programme includes educational and therapy support services. Those earning above median household income will benefit from a further 20 per cent to 50 per cent subsidy. This is on top of the $500 base subsidy available to all children enrolled in this programme.

  • 1. The Productivity and Innovation Credit (PIC) scheme will be extended for another three years to 2018. Under the scheme, firms can get either tax deductions or cash grants when they invest in equipment to boost productivity. A new PIC+ scheme will be introduced. The expenditure cap for qualifying SMEs under the PIC+ scheme will be increased from the $400,000 under the PIC scheme to $600,000 per qualifying activity per Year of Assessment (YA) from YA 2015.

    2. New industrial spaces that cluster companies within the same industry will be created. This will lower costs for small- and medium-enterprises as they will be able to consolidate their operations and pool resources.

    3. The Lifelong Learning Endowment Fund will be increased by $500 million to $4.6 billion.

    4. The Government is launching the ICT for Productivity and Growth programme, which will subsidise 70 per cent of the cost of information and communications technology products and services for SMEs. This is to encourage SMEs to adopt ICT. Companies piloting emerging technology will also get an 80 per cent subsidy from the Government for the qualifying costs, capped at $1 million. The Government will also subsidise SMEs' fibre broadband subscription plans of at least 100 Mbps.

    5. To support companies who want to venture overseas, the Government will raise the support level for pilot and test-bedding projects from the current 50 per cent to 70 per cent under the Global Company Partnership.

  • 1. Lower- and middle-income groups will get permanent subsidies so that they can fully pay their MediShield Life premiums out of regular Medisave contributions.

    2. To ease the transition into MediShield Life, the Government will also provide subsidies to offset premium increases in the first few years. This will also cover those who have higher incomes.

    3. From September this year, subsidies for specialist outpatient clinics for lower- and middle-income Singaporeans will be increased from the current 50 per cent to 70 and 60 per cent respectively.

    4. Subsidies for medication will be enhanced as well. This will be introduced in early 2015.

    5 Singaporeans aged 55 and above this year, who are not part of the Pioneer Generation, will receive an annual Medisave top-up of $100 to $200 over the next five years. The amount they are eligible for is based on the annual value of their home. This will be paid out in August.

  • 1. The employer Central Provident Fund (CPF) contribution rate will be increased by 1 percentage point for all workers from January next year. This will go into the Medisave Account.

    2. The CPF contribution rates for those aged 50 to 55 will increase by 1.5 percentage points, on top of the increase of 1 percentage point (refer to earlier point). This consists of 1 percentage point from the employer and 0.5 percentage point from the employee.

    3. The employer contribution rate for CPF for those aged 55 to 65 will increase by 0.5 percentage point.

    4. For points 2 and 3, employer contributions will be put into the Special Account, while employee contributions go into the Ordinary Account. This will begin in January next year.

    5. The Government is not expected to make further changes to total CPF contribution rates any time soon.

  • 1. Those aged 55 and above this year and who earn $26,000 or less a year will get a one-off Seniors' Bonus of $100 or $250, depending on the value of their homes.

    2. Housing Board households will get one-off GST vouchers, ranging from $90 to $260. HDB households, up to 4-rooms, will get one to three months rebate on their conservancy fees.

    3. Disabled individuals will get more subsidies for their transport needs. The Government will provide subsidies to cover up to 80% for those who require dedicated transport services to access special education and care services. This will apply to the lower two-thirds of households. Lower-income households with disabled members will get subsidies of up to 50 per cent under a new Taxi Subsidy Scheme.

    4. Parent relief and handicapped parent relief will be increased by up to $3,000, with those living with their parents getting a higher relief quantum. Parent relief can now also be shared among family members.

    5. Individuals caring for a handicapped spouse, sibling or child will see their reliefs increase by $2,000.