Singapore Budget 2013: What I Got
Last week, The Straits Times asked various Singaporeans for their Singapore Budget 2013 wish list.
We return to them to ask: Did Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam grant your wish in his Singapore Budget 2013 speech?
Mr Darren Wong, 38, a medical sales personnel, lives in a four-room flat in Balestier with his 35-year-old wife Hannah, a housewife, and their two young children. The family income is $4,000 to $5,000 a month. She had quit her administrator job to look after the family. He noted the pressure of striking a balance between nurturing a family and being the sole breadwinner.
What he had hoped from Budget 2013: He had hoped the Government would lighten the burden of families with single incomes beyond schemes like the Baby Bonus.
What young families got in Budget 2013: Low-income and middle-income families will get an additional Goods and Services Tax (GST) voucher in addition to the permanent GST voucher scheme introduced last year.
All Housing Board households will also get a reprieve on their service and conservancy charges. Households living in three- to four-room flats will get two months rebate.
From March 1, families with young children, elderly dependents and persons with disabilities will get a concession on foreign domestic worker levy. The levy will be cut from $170 to $120 a month, saving them $600 a year.
More than $3 billion will also be spent to improve the quality of the pre-school sector over the next five years. Money will go to increasing the number of pre-schools and improving the quality of pre-school education.
His reaction: The tweaks will help defray some of the expenses that weigh down a single-income household like mine. For instance, the reduction in maid levies may be of use should my wife decide to return to the workforce a few years down the road.
Other forms of assistance - for instance the GST vouchers, personal income tax rebates and Service and Conservancy Charges rebates - will go some way in defraying our expenses.
I am also looking forward to the improvement in standards of pre-school education. As a young parent, we want to know that we are placing our children in a system where they will benefit the most from. The changes give us the confidence that the Government is doing what it can for our little ones.
I am disappointed that no direct help was given to stay home mothers, but am grateful for the general financial assistance that will be disbursed over the course of the year.
Miss Nurulasyiqah Mohammad Taha, 29, works at the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore. She has spinal muscular atrophy and makes her way around in a motorised wheelchair.
She lives in a five-room flat in Pasir Ris with her younger brother and parents, who own the flat. The family income is $6,000 a month.
What she had hoped from Budget 2013: More subsidies to help defray the transport costs of the disabled.
What the disabled community got in Budget 2013: An agency dedicated to persons with disabilities so that there is a focal point for all their needs.
Her reaction: I am disappointed that there is no direct assistance given to alleviate the rising cost of living such as transport costs for the disabled. But I am heartened that an agency for us is being set up. I hope it will serve as a one-stop centre that will collaborate across the different agencies as our needs are varied, from education to housing to transport to caregiving.
Mr Georgie Chng, 71, a retired army warrant officer, lives with his 63-year-old wife in a three-room flat they own in Waterloo Street. They have two children and one grandchild who do not live with them. The couple get $1,200 a month from his pension.
What he had hoped from Budget 2013: More GST and utility vouchers to combat the rising cost of living, and top-ups to Medishield.
What elderly Singaporeans got in Budget 2013: There will be a $1 billion top-up to Medifund to provide extra help with healthcare bills, and a $250 million top-up to the Eldercare Fund to support patients tapping on subsidised nursing homes and other long-term care services.
Seniors who need to buy assistive devices such as hearing aids and motorised wheelchairs can tap on the Senior's Mobility and Enabling Fund, which will be topped up to $50 million. Pensioners like Mr Chng will also get more allowance. The Singapore Allowance will be raised by $20 a month to $280 and the monthly pension ceiling will be increased to $1,210.
His reaction: I have no complaints. Getting half a loaf is better than none. My increased pension will go to household expenses such as buying basic essentials like oil and rice. It is a pity that nothing was done to help with transport fares. They are rising year on year even though we already have senior citizens' concession fares.
Miss Linah Lui, 44, an administrator who is single, lives in a three-room flat in Toa Payoh with her 66-year-old widowed mother, a housewife. Miss Lui owns the flat. She has two younger brothers, one of whom is married. Her family income is $6,000 to $7,000 a month. She was concerned about singles having to look after aged parents even as they themselves grow older.
What she had hoped from Budget 2013: She wanted policies to be tweaked to better cater to singles and to signal how their needs are not forgotten. There could be, she said, subsidies when singles apply for maids that look after aged parents, and it should be mandatory for employers to grant singles leave to take care of parents when the latter are ill.
What singles got in Budget 2013: There was nothing specifically for singles, although three-room households like hers got two months of service and conservancy rebates.
From March 1, families with young children, elderly dependents and persons with disabilities will get a concession on foreign domestic worker levy. The levy will be cut from $170 to $120 a month, saving them $600 a year. She does not believe she is eligible for the maid levy due to her income level, but she is awaiting more details on the scheme which will cost the Government $73 million a year.
Resident individual taxpapers aged below age 60 as at Dec 31, 2012, will get a 30 per cent income tax rebate, capped at $1,500 per taxpayer.
Her reaction: The tax rebate is a negligible amount but it's still better than nothing. I wish that the service and conservancy charges rebates could have been further extended beyond the two-month period for three-room flats, as the rebate is the same amount of money I got last year. Conservancy charges are going up but the rebate period has stayed the same. The Budget is very skewed towards the family. It's the same thing every year and there's nothing much for us singles to look forward to.
LOWER INCOME FAMILY
Mr Tay Keng Leong, 60, a cleaner, lives in a one-room rental flat in Hougang with his wife, 44, a housewife, and their three children aged 13, 11 and nine. He earns $640 a month. The family is on various financial aid schemes which help them with about $520, and also get supermarket vouchers and canned food.
What he had hoped from Budget 2013: He wanted help coping with the higher cost of living, in particular transport subsidies and vouchers.
What low-income families got in Budget 2013: A 25 to 50 per cent increase in Workfare Income Supplement payouts. At present, Mr Tay gets about $1,760 in cash and CPF money a year.
Low-income and middle-income families will get an additional Goods and Services Tax (GST) voucher on top of the permanent GST voucher scheme which was introduced last year. This means a doubling of the amount that eligible households get, which is $1,480 a year for regular households.
Singaporeans aged 45 and above will also get $200 CPF Medisave Top-up.
His children will benefit from the expansion of the Opportunity Fund by $72 million, and a top-of up of the Edusave Endowment Fund by $300 million. These will be for programmes which encourage students to do better in school and participate in subsidised school-based enrichment programmes.
His reaction: Any help from the Government is appreciated. Although I'm disappointed that transport subsidies are not included in this year's Budget as it costs us about $120 every month paying for our children to go to school, I'm appreciative of the other forms of financial assistance.
The 25 per cent increase in Workfare Income Supplement payouts and the additional GST voucher will make a significant difference to me.
I like that the Government is focusing on the young. Likewise, I've pinned my hopes on my children. I always remind my elder son to work hard and to get a good job.
For more news and analysis on Singapore Budget 2013, click here for ST's Big Story coverage.