Budget debate

Thinking out of the box

Mr Liang Eng Hwa
Mr Liang Eng Hwa
Ms Foo Mee Har
Ms Foo Mee Har
Mr Darryl David
Mr Darryl David
Mr Henry Kwek
Mr Henry Kwek
Ms Sun Xueling
Ms Sun Xueling

MPs got creative in Parliament yesterday as they offered unconventional solutions to dealing with problems that ranged from suspending income tax for those who have lost their jobs to creating an app to help seniors find part-time jobs. Rachel Au-Yong highlights five memorable suggestions by MPs on the first day of the Budget debate.

STATE LAND AS CHEAP OFFICE SPACE

State land earmarked for medium- to long-term use could be leased out on short leases with temporary built-up structures.

These spaces could then be rented out to start-ups and new enterprises at a low price, said Mr Liang Eng Hwa (Holland-Bukit Timah GRC). Ms Foo Mee Har (West Coast GRC) made a similar suggestion.

Unused buildings and spaces near institutes of higher learning could be made available to foster closer networking and innovation between start-ups and students, said Mr Liang.

He cited Clementi and West Coast, which are near the National University of Singapore; and Dover Road, close to Singapore Polytechnic.

NO INCOME TAX FOR THE UNEMPLOYED

The Government could temporarily suspend the collection of income tax from people who have lost their jobs, as a short-term measure to help them cope, said Ms Foo Mee Har (West Coast GRC).

Currently, retrenched workers still have to pay taxes on income they received in the past, other than that given for the loss of employment.

She also suggested that the Central Provident Fund (CPF) could allow more flexible use of funds if one is retrenched - such as to pay mortgages, to help them keep their homes.

HOUSING GRANTS BASED ON PROPERTY PRICES

The recently enhanced CPF Housing Grant could be given based on a percentage of the purchase price of a resale flat, not just the current lump sum of $40,000 for those who buy five-room flats or larger, or $50,000 for four-room flats or smaller.

Mr Darryl David (Ang Mo Kio GRC) acknowledged that the Government would not want to subsidise those who buy a bigger flat too much, since they tend to have higher incomes.

But some from lower-income groups may need to purchase a five-room flat due to family needs - even if this flat costs less than some four-roomers, depending on the location.

A percentage-based grant could be capped at a certain amount, and qualifying home buyers can be given the higher amount, he said.

GETTING SENIORS IN ON THE GIG ECONOMY

A digital platform and app aimed at helping seniors take part in the gig economy could help combat ageism in the workplace.

Mr Henry Kwek (Nee Soon GRC) said freelance, part-time jobs are less discriminating, and a proper platform could help seniors find "micro-jobs" such as providing nursing assistance or infant care services to their neighbours.

The app could also be coded to wire a portion of their "pay cheque" to their CPF accounts after the job is completed, and check on their SkillsFuture individual learning portfolio, he said, urging the Government to start on this as soon as possible.

REVIEW SKILLSFUTURE TRAINERS

People who have undergone training should be able to leave reviews on the SkillsFuture portal, said Ms Sun Xueling (Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC).

This would ensure that training providers are held accountable and provide relevant training, which is linked to job outcomes, she said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 01, 2017, with the headline 'Thinking out of the box'. Print Edition | Subscribe