Singapore GE: Govt should ‘make clear’ fiscal projections so public can assess need for GST hike, says WP’s Pritam Singh

The Workers’ Party’s Sylvia Lim (right), Pritam Singh (left) and new face Tan Chen Chen (centre) on a walkabout near Soo Teck LRT station, July 3, 2020. — TODAY pic
The Workers’ Party’s Sylvia Lim (right), Pritam Singh (left) and new face Tan Chen Chen (centre) on a walkabout near Soo Teck LRT station, July 3, 2020. — TODAY pic

SINGAPORE, July 3 — The Government should make clear its revenue and expenditure projections for the rest of the decade so that Singaporeans can properly assess whether a hike in the Goods and Services Tax (GST) is necessary, Workers’ Party (WP) chief Pritam Singh said today.

He was making the point in response to a comment made by Chan Chun Sing from the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) during a dialogue session yesterday evening organised by Chinese-language newspaper Lianhe Zaobao yesterday evening.

Chan, who was Trade and Industry Minister before Parliament was dissolved, had asked how the WP plans to foot the bill for proposals in its manifesto, including its objection to an increase in the GST.

In 2018, the PAP government announced plans to increase the GST from the current 7 per cent to 9 per cent, sometime between 2022 and 2025.

Speaking to reporters during the walkabout with WP’s candidate for Punggol West Single Member Constituency (SMC), Tan Chen Chen, Singh said: “The hike is a jump from 7 per cent to 9 per cent and we believe that, number one, the Government has to make clear its revenue-expenditure projections for the rest of the decade before the public can actually make a good assessment of whether the hike is necessary.” 

He added that during a Parliamentary debate on the planned GST increase, WP Members of Parliament had also asked whether there were other possible sources of revenue that had been considered.

“Now I think there is a view out there where it is alleged that the WP wants to raid the reserves and so forth. But if we look back in 2006, how much of the Net Investment Returns Contribution (NIRC) did Singapore use? I think it was about S$2 billion at that point,” he said.

“Fast forward to today, in about 15 years, they are using about S$17 billion or S$18 billion dollars every year.”

The NIRC refers to investment returns on Singapore’s reserves. These returns supplement the annual budget and form the biggest contributor to Government revenue.

According to the Ministry of Finance, the NIRC is estimated to be S$17.2 billion for the 2019 financial year, equivalent to about 18 per cent of the Government budget.

Singh added that introducing Temasek Holdings into the NIRC formula in 2016 had slowed the growth of the reserves.

“So what happens as society evolves? You have to look at ways of how you can support your people better and address issues that are very central to them, like the cost of living, for example,” he said. 

“So I think those were some of the points that were brought up previously already in Parliament. Even before we talk about what Chan said yesterday, I think these are some of the issues for Singaporeans to think about.” — TODAY

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