Q&A: Good moves and nice beginnings

  • Should Budget 2014 have also given out cash to pioneers?

Dr Mary Ann Tsao, chairman of Tsao Foundation: "Studies have shown when a older person has a bit more money, their relationship with their family changes... the money goes towards helping the family, to their grandchildren. So in that regard it's not just about health care but something to make their life a bit better, make their family stronger - 'I can also give something of money value to my children, my grandchildren.' That is very powerful. It's something to think about."

Dr Lily Neo, Member of Parliament: "The purpose of the Pioneer Generation Package is different, but there are cash components in other parts of the Budget, for example the GST vouchers and the U-Save and also the S&CC rebates. On top of that, this year those 55 and above are getting double the GST voucher... There are also other sources of help available, from Comcare and social service offices."

  • The Parent Relief will now allow siblings to share the tax reliefs from taking care of parents. How significant is it?

Ms Gan Kwee Lian, tax partner at KPMG: "The Singapore population is ageing, and the responsibility of taking care of parents doesn't lie with only one child or another. So it's a good move on the part of the Government to encourage shared responsibilities among siblings.

In terms of the dollar and cents benefits, I think it's not a lot because the increase (in the tax relief) is about $2,000. So if you were to take the highest tax bracket of 20 per cent, that translates to about only $400. But I think the rationale behind it is very, very encouraging."

  • Will the $8 billion Pioneer Generation Fund be enough for the Pioneer Generation Package?

Mr Jeremy Lim, head of Asia-Pacific health and life sciences at Oliver Wyman: "The big question mark is we're not sure at this point how long people are actually going to live; Singapore's life expectancy has increased dramatically over the last 50 years.

And it would not be surprising if today's 65-year-old pioneer lives to 85, 90, and we may be surprised that the $8 billion to $9 billion which appears very generous today, with rates of advancement in medical science, cost of living, it actually may not be sufficient."

  • Could more have been done to help small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) cope?

Mr Ho Meng Kit, chief executive officer of Singapore Business Federation: "We are seeing in this Budget the Productivity and Innovation Credit-plus scheme, which is sort of ring-fenced for SMEs. So it's a nice beginning. Maybe in the future, the Government will move in a way that when they introduce policies, the burden falls differently on different enterprises.

Maybe for the small enterprises, which are more burdened, they will give special consideration."

  • Can Singaporeans change their mindsets to encourage productivity?

Mr Jimmy Koh, UOB head of economic- treasury research and investor relations: "Recently my wife and I went to a pharmacy... usually we talk to a pharmacist. This time I talked to a webcam. And they equipped the sales staff with basic knowledge, such that the pharmacist can stay off site, she probably handles five branches. So I said, 'That's brilliant, that's productivity.' The only thing is, I hate to talk to a webcam.

But you know what? We will get used to it."

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