$1.1b Bicentennial Bonus for Singaporeans

The bonus is part of two initiatives that will be launched to commemorate the year, with the other being a Bicentennial Community Fund. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

SINGAPORE - To commemorate the bicentennial year, a $1.1 billion Bicentennial Bonus will be shared with Singaporeans, Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat said on Monday (Feb 18).

The bonus is part of two initiatives that will be launched to commemorate the year, with the other being a Bicentennial Community Fund.

As part of the Bicentennial Bonus, 1.4 million lower-income Singaporeans will receive up to $300 through a GST Voucher cash payouts.

The bicentennial payment, which will be received at the end of 2019, is meant to help them with their daily living expenses.

Lower-income workers who received Workfare Income Supplement (WIS) payments will also get a Workfare Bicentennial Bonus.

They will receive an additional 10 per cent of their WIS payment for work done in 2018, with a minimum payment of $100, in cash.

A total of 407,000 low-wage workers received WIS payouts totalling $650 million in 2017.

For all tax resident individuals, personal income tax rebates of 50 per cent will also be granted.

The rebate will be capped at $200 per taxpayer and is estimated to cost about $280 million.

Parents with school-going children will also benefit from the bonus with additional support for their children's education.

There will be a one-off $150 top-up to the Edusave accounts of Singaporean students aged seven to 16.

Singaporeans aged between 17 and 20 will receive up to $500 in their Post Secondary Education accounts (PSEA).

The top-up to the Edusave accounts is in addition to the annual Edusave contributions that the Government makes.

The education top-ups are expected to be made by mid-2019 and estimated to cost $140 million.

For those who are near retirement, additional CPF top-ups will be made available.

Singaporeans aged 50 to 64 in 2019 and who have less than $60,000 of retirement savings in their CPF accounts will receive a top-up of up to $1,000.

This will be credited into the Special Savings Account for members aged 50 to 54 and Retirement account for members aged 55 to 64.

In all, 300,000 Singaporeans will benefit from the top-up.

"Majority of the recipients will be women. Many of them left the workforce early and took up important roles as mothers, caregivers or housewives," said Mr Heng.

"As a result, they had fewer years to build up their savings. This top-up is a way to recognise their contributions and to help them save more."

Apart from the Bicentennial Bonus, a $200 million Bicentennial Community Fund will also be set up to encourage Singaporeans to give back.

The fund will provide dollar-to-dollar matching for donations garnered by Institutions of a Public Character (IPCs) in 2019.

The amounts matched for each IPC will be capped to ensure that more IPCs can benefit from the fund.

Donations made to IPCs qualify for a 250 per cent tax deduction.

Businesses also enjoy a 250 per cent tax deduction on qualifying expenditure when their employees volunteer or provide services to IPCs under the Business and IPC Partnership Scheme.

"With this, we hope to encourage more Singaporeans, including younger Singaporeans, to embrace the spirit of giving back," said Mr Heng.

"At the same time, we are encouraging IPCs to reach out to more donors. The fund will be designed to ensure a good distribution of support for all donations to IPCs which do not currently receive government matching, and to increase the impact of the good work they are doing."

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Ms Iris Lin, senior assistant director of Fei Yue Community Services, welcomed the initiatives.

She said the additional help for lower-income and older Singaporeans is a nice gesture.

"The amount, no matter how big or small, will go a long way to help the low-income. This is also a nice way to recognise the hard work that older Singaporeans have put in, including women who may have had to stop working because of care giving," she said.

Dover Park Hospice's chief executive Timothy Liu said the Bicentennial Community Fund is encouraging to IPCs "as we see a softer economy in forecast and to meet the rising operating costs in providing community-based palliative care in a rapidly ageing population.

"This is particularly so for Dover Park Hospice as we ramp up capacity to serve more terminally ill patients at home and at the hospice."

More details will be disclosed next week during the debate on each ministry's budget.

Read Mr Heng's full speech.

Correction note: An earlier version of this story said Singaporeans aged between 17 and 20 will receive $500 in their Post Secondary Education accounts. This is incorrect. We are sorry for the error.

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