SINGAPORE - Lower-income groups will benefit the most from the comprehensive set of measures laid out in the Budget to help everyone cope with the cost of living, said Finance Minister Lawrence Wong on Friday (Feb 25).
Middle-income families will also receive substantial benefits for the amount of taxes they pay, he added.
He was responding to online comments on the recent Budget in an Instagram video which he posted on Friday night.
Addressing one user's comment that the increases would make "only the poor suffer", Mr Wong said measures such as the Household Support Package will give households utilities rebates, and they will also receive CDC Vouchers and get help for their children’s education.
These vouchers aim to support Singaporean households with their daily expenses and can be used at participating heartland shops and hawker centres.
"At the same time, they will get a significant package of measures from the enhanced Assurance Package which will provide help over the next five years," Mr Wong added.
Beyond these temporary measures, permanent help will also be given through the enhanced GST Vouchers and other initiatives for lower-wage workers, such as progressive wages and Workfare.
"So, all together, we in fact have significant permanent help for our lower-income groups in Singapore," said Mr Wong.
Another user commented on taxes for the rich and said they should be taxed more.
Responding, Mr Wong said: "A lot of thought has gone into designing our fiscal system to ensure that we have a system of taxes and transfers that is fair and progressive. And that means everyone contributes their share of taxes in return for stronger social support.
"But those with greater means contribute a larger share."
He said such a system will help to strengthen the social compact and solidarity here, while enabling Singapore "to take bold steps towards building a fairer, greener, and more inclusive society".
In his Budget speech on Feb 18, Mr Wong had announced a goods and services tax (GST) increase from 7 per cent to 9 per cent in two stages - one percentage point each time on Jan 1, 2023, and Jan 1, 2024.
Addressing a comment on the GST increase and how this would impact middle-income families, he said the Government has also taken care to ensure that middle-income groups receive support from the Budget, with the Household Support Package, the enhanced Assurance Package for GST and enhanced GST Vouchers.
Middle-income families can also benefit from a broad range of subsidies for areas such as housing, education and healthcare, he added.
"So when you sum it all together for the amount of taxes that middle-income families pay, which is relatively low compared to many other places around the world, middle-income families in Singapore do receive substantial benefits and support from the Government," Mr Wong said.
"And we will do everything we can to keep it that way."
Citing the GST increase, a user voiced concerns over whether businesses would use it as a cover to raise prices.
Mr Wong said the Government is standing up a Committee Against Profiteering, which will be chaired by Minister of State Low Yen Ling.
It will watch over this issue closely and take action against unfair price hikes, he said.
He concluded: "The whole team has been working hard for several months now, looking through every policy measure, engaging many different stakeholders, and in the end, putting together what we believe is a balanced package of measures in this Budget."
He said that MPs will be debating the Budget next week in Parliament and he will round up the debate in a speech on Wednesday (March 2).
"I want to assure everyone that we are fully committed in this shared endeavour of building a fairer, greener and more inclusive Singapore," he said.