Budget 2015: What Singaporeans want

ST talks to Singaporeans of different backgrounds and asks them what they hope to get out of this year's Budget. 

Retiree: Help for medical expenses

Who: Ms Chin Chu Eng, 82, retired three years ago and lives with her retiree husband Lee Swee Hock, 86, in a three-room flat in Bukit Ho Swee.

Main worries: “I have problems with my heart, so I go to the government hospitals to treat it. I visit the doctor every three months, it used to cost more than $30 without the government subsidies. Now with the subsidies, I pay about $2 per trip.

It's better if the government provides more medical subsidies. For some, they are of a good financial standing and they don't need it. But we need it. Any help is good.”

Hopes for Budget 2015: “I’m not asking for anything extravagant. I only need help for medical expenses because it's so expensive nowadays.

“My children do help me, but they have their own families. If everyone pitches in to help, it would make everything so much easier.”


Retiree on the dole: Every extra dollar helps

Who: Retiree Salmah Osman, 87, was formerly a seamstress. She has no children and her husband died in 2007. Her only surviving family member is a niece who works overseas. Her niece's friend, who lives in a Bedok flat, helps take care of her.

Madam Salmah spends her days - from 9am to 5pm - at the PAP Community Foundation (PCF) Tampines East 3-in-1 Family Centre (Aged Care).  She qualifies for public assistance, receiving $450 a month for expenses.

Main worries: "Although I'm receiving quite a lot of subsidies, every extra dollar will help.

"I used to stay at home by myself, but fell and was injured because I'm suffering from blurred vision. I also have high blood pressure and diabetes and have to go to Changi Hospital for a check-up every three months.

"After my accident, my niece decided that I should have day care. I've been coming to the Tampines East centre every day since August, and in the evenings I stay with my niece's friend.

"I pay $200 every month for day care, $70 for transport from Bedok to the PCF centre, and another $50 for an escort service up to my doorstep because I have trouble walking."

Hopes for Budget 2015: "I was lucky because the centre waived the $550 one-time deposit and registration fees, and also waived my toiletries and stationery fee, which is $50 a month.

"The Government can help other old people with these fees, as they are not subsidised.

"If the Silver Support scheme can provide some money every month, it can go towards my day-care costs and lessen the burden on my niece. I can also pass some of the money to my caretaker for her expenses."


Restaurant owner: Ease labour crunch

Who: Mr Edmund Toh, 46, is the director of Nature Vegetarian Catering and Nature Vegetarian Restaurant. His business, started in 2000, employs 15 staff.

Main worries: "Manpower is an issue because food and beverage (F&B) is a trade where we still rely on a certain amount of labour. We need the human touch - we can't rely totally on IT alone, or our customers will have lunch or dinner in a very cold and impersonal environment.

"From 2013 onwards, the cost of running an F&B business has been getting higher and higher, eating into our margins. We have had to pay higher salaries because of low manpower availability. We now pay $8 per hour for part-timers, up from $5. I offered $2,000 pay to hire a waitress but she rejected the offer. Since the new staff are getting higher pay, we've also had to adjust all the salaries for our current staff over a very short period. And we haven't raised the prices of our products. Foreign worker levies have also increased, as have food costs. It's challenging. I feel that 2015 will be a make-or-break year for many in the F&B sector."

Hopes for Budget 2015: "That small and medium-sized enterprises will get more help to increase productivity, in terms of additional Productivity and Innovation Credit or IT claims.

"I also hope the Government can look into foreign manpower quotas - maybe don't tighten too much for certain sectors.

"Singaporeans don't want to work in sectors like F&B, construction or health care, but we still have to rely on some basic human manpower."


Middle-class plea: Help with basics, parent care

Who: Working mother Norizah Jamari, 47. She lives in a five-room flat in Marsiling with her husband, police officer Samsuri Masuki, 50; their three sons, 17, 20, 22; her father, 73; and a maid. The family's combined monthly household income is about $6,000.

Main worries: "We're part of the middle class, so sometimes I feel left out during the Budget. We're caught in the middle, so we don't get certain incentives or subsidies. Of course, the lower-income should get more help. But for us, we crossed a certain income ceiling but that doesn't mean we're well-off. We still have some difficulties. We have to juggle transport costs, medical costs, groceries, and things can get tight. Like for groceries. We don't eat out much. You know what boys are like, so my grocery costs can go up to $150 a week. I have to try to keep it down; sometimes we go to Johor Baru to get our groceries."

Hopes for Budget: "We want some help with our basic necessities. Household expense or grocery vouchers would be useful. Or a cash grant for our daily expenses. Even $250 can ease our mind.

"I hope the Government can adjust the number of days for parent-care leave.

"We get six days for childcare leave, but only two days for our parents. My father has diabetes, hypertension, and cholesterol problems, and has had a stroke. We need to take him for check-ups. Two days isn't enough.

"I hope there are more ways to help our family balance work and taking care of each other, and spending time together. That's also important."