Say something about these, please, PM Lee!

If I were to respond to a survey about life in Singapore, I would say I am 60% happy with my external environment and 80% happy with my home environment. Can’t be 100% lah or else I would be in paradise, and I’m not talking about the Paradise restaurants 🙄

So, I would like Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong to address some of the issues that bug me about things that aren’t within my control and hopefully change them so that my happiness level with the external environment would match that of my feelings for my own home.

First and foremost is this thing about the People’s Association and the grassroots adviser.

For years and years I’ve found it — and still find it — impossible to understand why defeated PAP candidates are allowed to remain the grassroots adviser to the ward/s that has/have gone to the Opposition.

I am no Opposition fan. In fact, I am mostly neutral when it comes to the Opposition. And when it comes to one or two Opposition noise makers, I am downright hostile.

Yet I feel it isn’t right for Opposition MPs who have won fair and square to be left out in the cold where community events are concerned. Especially at the once a year National Day dinner.

Shouldn’t the kosher MP be the GOH instead of the defeated PAP candidate? Sure, it’s the grassroots organisations such as CCCs that organise the dinner and the entertainment but when was the last time that the grassroots of an Opposition ward asked the standing MP to be the GOH, instead of the PAP loser?

If there has been such an occasion I am sure it would have made the front page headlines in the Straits Times. I don’t remember ever having read such an account. 🙄

My hope therefore is for PM Lee to address this topic, preferably at the National Day Rally when all Singaporeans, PAP, Opposition and everyone in between are supposed to be united as one nation, one people, one Singapore.

If PAP nurtured grassroots leaders don’t know any better about propriety and respect to the Opposition MP who represents their constituency, then let the supreme commander of the PAP educate them about respecting the wishes of Singaporeans in word and deed!

The other topic I would like to hear the PM talk about is the ever-annoying policy to share government goodies with Singaporeans by using the annual value of property yardstick.

Of course I am highly grateful that the $120 discounted maid levy wasn’t doled out based on homes’ annual value or else I won’t have got that either.

Never mind that my flat would be put to shame by most of the ECs such as Bishan Loft and new generation HDB housing.

Never mind that everyone of my generation in my family has more or less stopped working, some for years. And although all of us live in private property, none of us are of the Wee Cho Yaw class; not even the permanent secretary class. We are even below lesser mortal classes for that matter.

Also, as our homes were bought decades ago, the prices that we paid back then won’t be able to get us decent public housing today. But if anyone would today offer me public housing of 1800 sf near Orchard Road for $500K, we might have a deal! 😆 Then, there would be no more angst about having my full share of budget goodies.

Seriously though, what is so difficult about determining who should get the GST Voucher? (see below) Why base it on a combi annual value of one’s home and assessable income, when it’s owner occupied?

Why not improve the criteria by checking the ages of the occupants? If someone is already 80+, is it likely that he or she would be able to benefit from the GST rebates for very much longer, even if he or she lives in private property? And as the annual value is a notional number, the effect of such a yardstick is that the person is given an implied make-believe income when none exists

It is the private-public property blunt cut-off that I find so galling. Why not throw in age consideration and the price paid for the property? Given our massive computing power, surely this isn’t too much to expect? Or am I mistaken?

The Straits Times
Published on Aug 03, 2013
GOVERNMENT HELP SCHEMES

Fair system of income, annual value as criteria in place

 GOVERNMENT help schemes such as the GST Voucher (GSTV) aim to provide support to those who are less well-off. They use both assessable income (AI) and the annual value (AV) of homes as criteria, as this combination provides a better picture of a person’s means than if just one criterion is used (“Govt help schemes: Income more relevant than annual value” by Mr Paul Chan Poh Hoi; Wednesday).

To address one of Mr Chan’s points, the AV does not refer to actual rental income earned, which would be reflected in the AI. The AV is a measure of the value of the home, irrespective of whether it is rented out. Besides a person’s income, this is an additional measure of how well-off he is.

Most Singaporeans with lower incomes do obtain larger GSTV benefits. This includes, for example, the majority of non-working spouses, who rightly benefit from the GSTV.

However, if GSTV benefits were based on AI alone, those who live in expensive homes and who choose not to work would obtain the same benefits as the poor.

Similarly, using AV alone would mean that Singaporeans who earn high incomes, but who choose to live in flats with lower AVs, would benefit unduly.

Our approach of using both AI and AV as criteria is a practical way of identifying those who are less well-off, from among the full population of adult Singaporeans. It is not perfect in design, but broadly equitable. It also complements other schemes which are less broad-based and allow for more customised assessment of an individual’s needs.

We will continue to review the eligibility criteria of government help schemes to benefit those who need greater support.

Lim Bee Khim (Ms)

Director, Corporate Communications

Ministry of Finance

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