BUDGET 2016 - Shaping our future together: Helping families

One-off GST cash voucher to help 1.4 million Singaporeans

Eligible Singaporeans will get up to $200 in a one-off goods and services tax (GST) cash voucher this year, to help them offset the cost of living amid bleak economic conditions.

The special payments will cost an extra $280 million, and help 1.4 million Singaporeans, Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat said yesterday.

They come on top of existing GST cash vouchers of either $150 or $300 given to eligible Singaporeans aged 21 or older, depending on the annual value of their homes.

"If our recipients spend some of these vouchers in our neighbourhood shops, it will support our local businesses as well," said Mr Heng.

The payouts will be made directly into recipients' bank accounts.

Introduced in 2012 to help lower- and middle-income households with their expenses, the GST voucher is given in three parts - cash, Medisave and Utilities-Save, which provides HDB households with a rebate to offset utilities bills.

One-off payments, like this year's, are given out occasionally to boost the voucher.

Families in Housing Board flats will also get a one-off rebate on service and conservancy charges (S&CC), ranging from one to three months, depending on the flat type.

The measures will cost $86 million and help 840,000 households.

Those living in an executive flat or a multi-generation flat will get a one-month rebate, while those in one- or two-room flats will get the maximum rebate of three months.

Beneficiaries welcomed the measures.

Madam Meera Taj Mohamed, 53, a former masseuse who left her job because of health issues, said the GST cash voucher would be a great help with daily expenses.

She said the $200 would help with groceries, as the food ration programme she is currently on does not provide cooking oil or perishables such as vegetables.

She will also get back about $84 from S&CC rebates this year, as she lives in a two-room flat in Sengkang.

"The feeling of having a bit extra is really good for those of us in need of cash," she said.

For retired technician Tan Poh Huat, 68, the additional help will be less life-changing, but should cover about 20 days of food expenses.

"I spend about $10 a day on three meals, so the $200 won't last for very long. But I don't smoke, I don't drink, and everybody needs money. If the Government wants to give me something, I am satisfied," he said.

MP Lee Bee Wah (Nee Soon GRC) said she was pleased her wish for cash vouchers had come true, adding that Mr Heng had taken "a very caring approach" in the Budget.

"We are heading into a challenging time from an economic standpoint. So I am not disappointed with the amount. It's never enough if you ask some people. But for me, it shows we care for the people and that's important."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 25, 2016, with the headline 'One-off GST cash voucher to help 1.4 million Singaporeans'. Print Edition | Subscribe