PAP press conference

Tax rates not linked to election results, says PM

(From far left) Madam Halimah Yacob, Mr Lim Swee Say, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Dr Ng Eng Hen, Mr S. Iswaran and Mr Desmond Lee at a press conference at the PAP's headquarters yesterday. Senior PAP leaders, such as Dr Ng, put potential candidat
(From left) Madam Halimah Yacob, Mr Lim Swee Say, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Dr Ng Eng Hen, Mr S. Iswaran and Mr Desmond Lee at a press conference at the PAP's headquarters yesterday. Senior PAP leaders, such as Dr Ng, put potential candidates through an onerous selection process before PM Lee finally decides if they have what it takes to represent Singapore.ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

Opposition's lavish promises to spend are what will lead to taxes going up, he says

The Government does not adjust tax rates according to the percentage of votes the PAP wins at elections but only when it needs to and after careful consideration, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said yesterday, rebutting the Workers' Party (WP) claim linking election results to GST hikes.

WP chief Low Thia Khiang warned at a rally on Friday that if voters gave the People's Action Party (PAP) too free a rein, the Government may hike the goods and services tax (GST) rate after elections, like it did after the 2006 polls.

Asked specifically if the GST would be raised from the current level of 7 per cent, Mr Lee said: "We don't adjust or raise taxes just because we got a percentage at the elections. We would be mad to do that. Raising, adjusting taxes are a very big decision. You consider it carefully, you discuss it thoroughly and you do it only when you absolutely have to do it.

"As far as the Government is concerned, we do things which we need to do and when we do that, we will explain it and we will justify it. And if it cannot be justified, and our people don't believe us, then we will pay the price at the next election."

He also singled out plans in opposition manifestos to give money to groups, including the young and the old, and to introduce a minimum wage. "Nowhere do they say you need to tax. And when they do, they say, ah, you will tax those rich guys, very few, don't worry. Won't break their bank... When you see a manifesto like that, that's when you must ask, where is the money going to come from?" he said.

BE UPFRONT WITH VOTERS

In this election, you are voting for the government, you are voting for the future, you are deciding whom you want to entrust, what kind of future you want to go towards. And that's what you should choose.

If you look at the other parties - in an election I should not make a speech without mentioning other parties - some have plans, some have no plans.

Some pretend not to want to form the government, but they harbour ill-concealed intentions, ambitions to do so. Some of them even take out the sentence that one day they hope to form the government and hope that people won't notice that they are not ready to form the government yet. But we put our intentions and our plans squarely in front of the public.

PAP SECRETARY-GENERAL AND PRIME MINISTER LEE HSIEN LOONG, on how some parties want to form the government when they are not ready to do so

VOTE FOR PARTY YOU APPROVE OF

I think it's a strange psychology to think that this is a government which is only dying to do bad things to people. Do we look like that? Here we are trying to do the best and needing support.

I would turn the argument and say, be careful. If you give more votes to the WP, they will become even more arrogant and oppressive to the rest of the parties as they've already shown. This is not a game.

You vote for the party and the team whom you trust and whom you approve of. If you approve of us, vote for us. If you don't approve of us, vote for somebody else.

But if you approve of us but don't want to vote for us, then I think something will go wrong.

PM LEE, responding to the Workers' Party's argument that if the PAP gets too strong a mandate from voters, it might see it as a licence to do as it pleases

HIGH STANDARDS FOR POLITICIANS

How do we keep our system open, clean? By having CPIB (the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau). Why is CPIB clean? Because it reports to the PM (Prime Minister).

Why is the PM clean? Well, partly it's the culture in the system but really it's because we have tried very hard to put into government a team where everybody is clean and you have every incentive to do so, and where it is easy to be found out if something has gone wrong.

I have a friend who is in another big Asian country. And that Asian country has a problem with corruption, and he was explaining to his friend from that country how we keep our system clean.

He explained, 'Well, you know, you got all this police, you got investigations, we got CPIB. So the chap asked him: "And whom does the CPIB report to?" So he, in those times, was a young and innocent fellow, solemnly explained: "The CPIB reports to the PM", thinking that that answered the question.

So if you want Singapore to stay different from other Asian countries, then you must make sure that we have high standards in politics, not just in the PAP but whoever is in politics.

PM LEE, on how Singapore's political culture of incorruptibility is a rarity in Asia

"Profligate spending and irresponsible, unsustainable plans. That is what will hurt and require you to raise taxes, including the GST," he added.

At a separate media interview yesterday, Foreign and Law Minister K. Shanmugam called Mr Low's remarks "scaremongering".

Mr Shanmugam said that Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam, who is also Finance Minister, "has made it very clear that we will not raise the GST".

"It's really a scaremongering tactic, ignoring what the Finance Minister has said," he added.

At the press conference at PAP headquarters yesterday, PM Lee lambasted the WP's effort to paint the PAP Government as "dying to do bad things to people", in a reference to Mr Low's warning that popular policies, including property cooling measures, could be reversed. "Do we look like that? Here we are trying to do the best and needing support... I would turn the argument and say, be careful. If you give more votes to the WP, they will become even more arrogant and oppressive to the rest of the parties as they've already shown."

The PAP Government, he said, does not play games with voters.

"You vote for the party and the team whom you trust and whom you approve of. If you approve of us, vote for us. If you don't approve of us, vote for somebody else.

"But if you approve of us but don't want to vote for us, then I think something will go wrong."

Mr Lee noted that some parties harboured ambitions to form the government when they were not ready to do so, but sought to downplay this so as not to frighten voters.

In recent rally speeches, WP chairman Sylvia Lim said that should the party take over the government, it would abolish group representation constituencies, while Mr Png Eng Huat argued that even if the WP were to take over as government, the civil service would keep things running.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on September 06, 2015, with the headline 'Tax rates not linked to election results, says PM'. Print Edition | Subscribe