Budget debate

Support for young and old alike

In the first 18 months of a newborn's life, his parents can receive at least $15,000 for his care from the Government.
In the first 18 months of a newborn's life, his parents can receive at least $15,000 for his care from the Government. PHOTO: ST FILE

In his speech yesterday wrapping up the Budget debate, Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat responded to concerns raised by 53 MPs over the past three days. He touched on what businesses and workers need to do, as well as social support measures and the need for a progressive yet sustainable tax system.

In the first 18 months of a newborn's life, his parents can receive at least $15,000 for his care from the Government.

A household of retirees living in a three-room or larger Housing Board flat received on average $5,000 per retiree in state transfers last year, mostly in the form of healthcare subsidies.

These figures were given by Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat to illustrate the extent to which the young are given a good footing to achieve their potential and the elderly, to grow old gracefully.

Middle-income earners are not forgotten in the Government's effort to support all Singaporeans.

Many of them pay little or no income tax, receive support in housing and healthcare, and can use SkillsFuture credits to pay for courses to upgrade their skills.

"All these measures are not as direct as putting money in people's pocket, but it has meaningful long- term impact on the careers and future of Singaporeans.

"The most important support for all Singaporeans, including the middle-income, is employability and good jobs," he said.

The Government's goal is to build an inclusive, resilient society that cares for its members, with more for lower-income families, he said.

Mr Heng focused on these three groups yesterday, especially young children and seniors, as several MPs had championed their cause.

He listed the monetary help given to babies and education subsidies for school-going children.

Seniors can also feel assured about meeting their basic needs with Silver Support, which gives the elderly poor a basic allowance.

But payouts will be made every three months and in advance instead of every month as this gives seniors the flexibility to manage their expenses, Mr Heng added.

Equally important are the programmes for the poor and needy, and to promote volunteerism, like a new scheme that supports businesses to partner charities.

But even as state support increases, Singaporeans should hold on to their spirit of self-reliance, he said.

"We must be cautious that Silver Support does not undermine values such as filial piety, or lead to a divisive mentality among citizens."

Singaporeans had to take care of one another and solve community problems as one, he added, saying: "It is not through the Government's efforts alone, but a collective effort, that we can build a caring and resilient society."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 07, 2016, with the headline 'Support for young and old alike'. Print Edition | Subscribe