MPs voice strong support for Pioneer Generation Package

Members of Parliament say they plan to offer more bouquets than brickbats to the Government in this year's Budget debate, which starts today, on Mar 3, 2014. -- ST FILE PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI 
Members of Parliament say they plan to offer more bouquets than brickbats to the Government in this year's Budget debate, which starts today, on Mar 3, 2014. -- ST FILE PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI 

Budget debate begins today, with 50 lawmakers expected to speak up

Members of Parliament say they plan to offer more bouquets than brickbats to the Government in this year's Budget debate, which starts today.

That is thanks to the $8 billion Pioneer Generation Package, which has gone down well with people.

Some 50 MPs are expected to join the debate, including Holland-Bukit Timah GRC MP Christopher de Souza, who said: "I think we will see strong support for the Pioneer Generation Package."

Said Mr Cedric Foo, the MP for Pioneer: "MPs generally reflect the public's opinions. The kinds of feedback that I have gotten so far have been positive."

The package recognises Singapore's nation-building generation with Medisave top-ups and subsidies for Medishield Life and outpatient treatments.

It was the centerpiece of a Budget that also gave help to lower- and middle-income students, and supported companies in the push to restructure for productivity.

But praise is not all that the package will elicit. Said Nee Soon GRC MP Lim Wee Kiak: "Now, it is a question of who is left out."

Questions also remain over implementation details.

And disagreement could occur at a more abstract level. Nominated MP Eugene Tan expects a "broad spectrum of views" on the principles of the Budget, with calls for more to be done for the less-well off, but also warnings not to erode the work ethic.

And while Ang Mo Kio GRC MP Inderjit Singh lauds Budget 2014's social aspect, he is critical of its "lack of focus" on rising business costs and ways to address this problem. He expects a robust debate on that.

After the Budget debate ends on Wednesday, Parliament will vote to approve the Government's financial policy for 2014.

From then until March 13, the focus will be on the spending plans of individual ministries as MPs scrutinise each of their budgets in turn.

Ang Mo Kio GRC MP Seng Han Thong expects the ministries of National Development, Health, Transport and Manpower to get the most attention from MPs.

He and Mr Foo - respectively vice-chairman and chairman of the government parliamentary committee (GPC) for transport - intend to press for an update on the reliability of rail services.

Nee Soon GRC MP Lee Bee Wah, who chairs the national development and environment GPC, thinks there might be housing policy changes for single parents and divorcees.

Some ministries, though, might choose to make announcements later in the year, with an eye on the biggest event in this year's legislative calendar - the opening of Parliament's second session in May.

That will follow the prorogue, or mid-term break, in April.

The President will open the next session of Parliament in May, and that is when the Government will set out its legislative programme for the rest of the term.

Tampines GRC MP Baey Yam Keng said that would be a good time for ministries to announce new plans.

janiceh@sph.com.sg

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