Protest against GST hike draws 120 people

Despite the dark clouds overhead, about 120 people gathered at Hong Lim Park yesterday for a protest against the planned hike in the goods and services tax (GST) announced at the Budget.

The protest was organised after Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat said last month that the GST will be raised from 7 per cent to 9 per cent between 2021 and 2025, to pay for increased government spending in the next decade.

Several of the six who gave speeches at the three-hour event said alternatives should be considered instead - including taxes on the wealthy, using revenue from land sales, and tapping a larger share of the investment returns from Singapore's past reserves.

Business manager Prabu Ramachandran said inheritance, estate and property taxes should be used instead to raise revenue.

"There is big income disparity and... instead of taxing the rich to help the poor, we are taxing everyone else to give tax breaks to the corporations and (those with) high net worth."

Several speakers, like former National Solidarity Party secretary-general Lim Tean, said basic necessities such as rice and water should be exempt from GST - something the Government has said would be hard to administer. People's Power Party secretary-general Goh Meng Seng said a current government should not tell a future one by how much to taxes should be raised.

Other speakers included Singapore Democratic Party politician Damanhuri Abas, former Reform Party candidate Osman Sulaiman, and former presidential candidate Tan Kin Lian. The event, organised by activist Gilbert Goh, drew Speakers' Corner regulars as well as curious onlookers.

Mr Mike Lim, 42, who is currently unemployed, said GST is a bread-and-butter issue. "Raising taxes is definitely a burden to the people," he said, adding that speeches by Mr Tan and Mr Lim would make sense to lower-and middle-income Singaporeans.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on March 04, 2018, with the headline 'Protest against GST hike draws 120 people'. Print Edition | Subscribe