Parliament Briefs

Three Bills passed in Parliament yesterday saw changes to the following laws:

Income Tax Act

Parliament yesterday approved amendments to the Income Tax Act, which include a measure to encourage the issuance of retail bonds.

Issuing companies that qualify will be offered a tax deduction of up to double the amount of issuance costs for bonds issued from May 19 this year to May 18, 2021. This will help defray the costs of retail bond issuance.

Other tax changes, first flagged in March's Budget, include a more generous corporate income tax rebate as well as mergers and acquisitions scheme, in support of small and medium-sized enterprises. The double tax deduction for internationalisation scheme has been extended to 2020.

To maintain fairness in the tax system, total personal income tax relief will also be capped at $80,000 per year of assessment starting from 2018.

Fire Safety Act

The Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) will be able to manage emergency situations involving pipelines carrying petroleum and flammable materials more quickly, with changes to the Fire Safety Act.

It will now have to deal with only one party responsible for the safety of all pipelines running through a pipeline corridor.

Before the changes were passed yesterday, there could be multiple pipeline owners managing different pipelines within a single corridor, each with its own maintenance and emergency response protocols. In a fire or explosion, it may not be clear immediately which licensee is responsible for responding to the incident, said Senior Minister of State (Home Affairs) Desmond Lee.

Merchant Shipping (Maritime Labour Convention) Act

Some 12,000 seafarers arriving at Singapore's port daily will receive better protection if they are abandoned by their ship-owners.

From Jan 18 next year, ship-owners must have insurance or other financial security to cover their obligations, such as repatriating seafarers - including those who are abandoned - and paying compensation if seafarers die or suffer long-term disability due to work.

These changes to the Merchant Shipping (Maritime Labour Convention) Act are in line with the International Labour Organisation's recent amendments to the Maritime Labour Convention, which Singapore is a state party to, said Senior Minister of State for Transport Josephine Teo.

Ships will also be required to carry on board documents showing that they have the necessary financial security.

Marissa Lee and Joanna Seow

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 11, 2016, with the headline 'Parliament Briefs'. Print Edition | Subscribe