Budget 2019 debate

Parliament: From the backbench



Have a climate change law

Singapore should put its money where its mouth is, and have laws to ensure that citizens keep to carbon emission and other environment-related goals.

Dr Lim said the country should go the route of Britain, Norway and even Malaysia which have enacted such legislation, and enact a law to "enshrine our commitment to mitigate climate change".

Other suggestions he gave are incentives for private property owners to install solar panels, changing the design of Housing Board bins to encourage more people to recycle, and installing more charging points for electric cars.


Allow instalments for composition fines

More compassion can be shown in the settlement of fines, and law enforcement agencies could consider allowing offenders to pay the composition amount in instalments, said Ms Lim.

Highlighting the challenges facing the vulnerable segments of the workforce, such as lower-income residents who do gig economy work, Ms Lim said such jobs hardly offer any employee benefits.

Such workers have "less ability to withstand the vicissitudes of life".

She related a case of a single mother of three, who delivered food on a motorcycle and was fined $200 for beating the red light in a moment of inattention.

Ms Lim said the mother was unable to pay, and she found the funds to help her.


Help firms hire those with special needs

Those with special needs and mental health conditions should enjoy equal opportunities to be employed, be financially independent and contribute to the economy, said Dr Intan.

She suggested incentives for firms which hire people from such vulnerable groups, including wage offsets and tax reliefs.

Having wage support may also allow such employees to have flexible work arrangements, as they may need time and space to adjust to their work environment and commitments, she noted. "Being gainfully employed is a start in helping those with special needs or with mental health challenges live independently... It accords sufficient opportunities to develop that much-needed self-belief and self-dignity," she added.


Digitalise the arts to be more inclusive

Harnessing technology and innovation is key to ensuring that the arts and culture continue to be relevant to audiences, and for them to become a part of the lives of Singaporeans, said Mr Ho.

The National Museum of Singapore, for example, has been using digital technology to enhance visitors' experience, while the Singapore Chinese Orchestra, where Mr Ho is executive director, has been streaming concerts live to audiences at home and internationally.

Mr Ho said more partnerships can be built among art and culture groups, technology companies and academia to create more of such digitalised programmes. He also called for the arts to be made more accessible and inclusive in Singapore.


Make car ownership part of means test

Assistance schemes like service and conservancy charge rebates, U-Save rebates and GST vouchers take into account citizens' housing type or the annual value of the home as a proxy for means testing.

Mr Yee suggested adding car ownership as a criterion as well, so that the maximum amount any car-owning household will get would be similar to that applicable for a five-room flat.

It is only fair that the less well-off get more and the more well-off get less, he said. Unfortunately, this allows some relatively well-off individuals who live in a smaller flat to get more than is fair. "We often hear stories from residents that a certain family has a Mercedes, but is living in a three-room flat to take advantage of such rebates and assistance," he said.

MR LIM BIOW CHUAN (Mountbatten)

Let elderly rent a flat alone

During his meet the people sessions, Mr Lim regularly gets requests from seniors who cannot get along with their family members or children and would like to move out to live on their own. However, current policies do not let them rent a subsidised flat alone.

As much as members would wish to encourage families to look after their seniors, the reality is that relationship issues are not easily solved, Mr Lim said. Can the Government consider better supporting seniors by letting them rent a one-room flat on a case-by-case basis? This would allow some of them to live in dignity in their retirement years instead of living in a hostile home environment, he added.


Empower allied health professionals

Ms Quay said allied health professionals could play greater roles to manage healthcare costs.

For instance, speech therapists should be allowed to manage patients referred from polyclinics so that they get help more speedily.

Currently, young patients with speech delays - but without other medical conditions - must first be assessed by a hospital doctor before they are referred to the speech therapy department. "I am concerned that this leads to additional consultation costs, as well as delay in seeking proper speech intervention," she said. "Is it not possible to streamline the process?"

She added that similar process improvements could be made for other ailments, such as adults who require outpatient rehabilitation.


Expand Workfare payouts

Mr Mohamed Irshad welcomed the Budget raising the qualifying income cap for the Workfare Income Supplement from $2,000 to $2,300 a month.

But given that the median wage recently rose to $4,400, he suggests raising the cap further to $2,640, or 60 per cent of the median wage. He said he increasingly sees young people entering the gig economy to make ends meet, taking on two or three jobs and scraping by every month.

To better help them, he also suggests that the qualifying age should be lowered to 30 to include younger Singaporeans who are trying to settle down but struggling to get by, and increasing the cash to Central Provident Fund ratio from the current 40:60 to 50:50 or 60:40.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 28, 2019, with the headline 'From The Backbench'. Subscribe