BUDGET 2019: Fostering a stronger society

$1.1b Bicentennial Bonus, with focus on helping lower-income

The Bicentennial Bonus and Bicentennial Community Fund are initiatives that will be launched to mark the bicentennial year. The Bicentennial Bonus includes GST Voucher cash payouts for lower-income Singaporeans, personal income tax rebates for all ta
The Bicentennial Bonus and Bicentennial Community Fund are initiatives that will be launched to mark the bicentennial year. The Bicentennial Bonus includes GST Voucher cash payouts for lower-income Singaporeans, personal income tax rebates for all tax resident individuals and CPF top-ups for older citizens.ST FILE PHOTO

$200m Bicentennial Community Fund will also be set up to spur S'poreans to give back

To commemorate the bicentennial year, a $1.1 billion Bicentennial Bonus will be shared with Singaporeans, Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat said yesterday.

The bonus is part of two initiatives that will be launched to commemorate the year, with the other being a Bicentennial Community Fund.

As part of the Bicentennial Bonus, 1.4 million lower-income Singaporeans will receive up to $300 through a GST Voucher cash payout.

The bicentennial payment, which will be received at the end of the year, is meant to help them with their daily living expenses.

Lower-income workers who receive Workfare Income Supplement (WIS) payments will also get a Workfare Bicentennial Bonus.

They will receive an additional 10 per cent of their WIS payment for work done last year, with a minimum payment of $100, in cash.

A total of 407,000 low-wage workers received WIS payouts totalling $650 million in 2017.

For all tax resident individuals, personal income tax rebates of 50 per cent will also be granted.

The rebate will be capped at $200 per taxpayer and is estimated to cost about $280 million.

 
 
 

Parents with school-going children will also benefit from the bonus, with additional support for their children's education.

There will be a one-off $150 top-up to the Edusave accounts of Singaporean students aged seven to 16.

Singaporeans aged between 17 and 20 will receive up to $500 in their Post Secondary Education Accounts.

The education top-ups are expected to be made by the middle of this year and are estimated to cost $140 million. Altogether, 570,000 students are expected to benefit from the top-ups.

For those who are near retirement, additional Central Provident Fund (CPF) top-ups will be made available.

Singaporeans aged 50 to 64 this year and who have less than $60,000 of retirement savings in their CPF accounts will receive a top-up of up to $1,000. This will be credited into the Special Account for members aged 50 to 54, and the Retirement Account for members aged 55 to 64.

About 300,000 Singaporeans will benefit from the top-up. "The majority of these recipients will be women. Many of them left the workforce early and took up important roles as mothers, caregivers or housewives," said Mr Heng. "As a result, they had fewer years to build up their savings. This top-up is a way to recognise their contributions and to help them save more."

Besides the Bicentennial Bonus, a $200 million Bicentennial Community Fund will also be set up to encourage Singaporeans to give back. The fund will provide dollar-to-dollar matching for donations garnered by Institutions of a Public Character (IPCs) this year.

The amounts matched for each IPC will be capped to ensure that more IPCs can benefit from the fund. Donations made to IPCs qualify for a 250 per cent tax deduction.

Mr Heng said: "We hope to further encourage more Singaporeans, including younger Singaporeans, to embrace the spirit of giving back."

Ms Iris Lin, senior assistant director of Fei Yue Community Services, welcomed the initiatives. She said that the additional help for lower-income and older Singaporeans is a nice gesture.

"The amount, no matter how big or small, will go a long way to help the low-income. This is also a nice way to recognise the hard work that older Singaporeans have put in, including women who may have had to stop working because of care giving."

Read Mr Heng's full speech.

Correction note: This article has been updated for accuracy.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 19, 2019, with the headline '$1.1b Bicentennial Bonus, with focus on helping lower-income'. Print Edition | Subscribe