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Table of Contents
TACKLING INEQUALITY: OUR APPROACH
58. Let me now move on to the second broad theme of the debate, which is about tackling inequality.
59. Virtually everyone spoke on this topic. I am glad that most members supported the thrust of the Budget and the direction the government is taking, not just for this year, but in the years to come.
60. Many spoke about giving more help to the lower income groups, such as Ms Amy Khor, Ms Lily Neo, and NMP Mary Liew.
61. Others, such as Mr Patrick Tay, Mr Zaqy Mohamed, NMP Eugene Tan, and Mr Sitoh Yi-Pin had specific points to make on the middle income group or the sandwiched class, especially those who feel the squeeze of costs, with young children and elderly parents.
62. Mr Gan Thiam Poh, Mr David Ong, Mr Zainudin Nordin, NMP Mary Liew and Mr Lim Wee Kiak also spoke about retirement adequacy. That too is a very important issue, which will be addressed in the Ministry of Manpower’s Committee of Supply debate.
Four-prong Approach to Tackling Inequality
63. Let me start by reiterating our basic approach in tackling the challenge of inequality.
64. First, we must grow our economy on a sustainable basis, and in particular, grow it by raising productivity so that we can raise incomes across all income levels. Our economic strategies are thus closely bound with our social strategies - how we create an inclusive society depends also on how we grow our economy. This first strategy, of growing incomes of all Singaporeans, is extremely important.
65. Second, we have to do everything we can to preserve social mobility, starting from a young age. Several MPs spoke about various initiatives - Ms Intan Azura gave the example of Mendaki’s Max-out programme. Mr Faisal Manap spoke about social workers, and I am glad he agreed with what was said in the Budget Speech about the need to reward social workers appropriately and give them fulfilling careers. Ms Low Yen Ling spoke about specific schemes to attract therapists and Learning Support Coordinators to work with children at the pre-school level. There are many programmes. We have to work harder in each of these areas and do everything we can to preserve and enhance social mobility.
66. Our third strategy is redistribution. Quite apart from growing incomes and doing what we can do to preserve social mobility, we have to redistribute resources through a fair system of tax and benefits.
67. This has been a feature of all our previous Budgets, and is very much present in this year’s Budget. We will provide significant benefits to the lower income group to help them keep up and upgrade. But we also want to avoid placing an excessive tax burden on the middle income group. That’s our third strategy.
68. Our fourth strategy, equally important, is to partner the community. This is not about the Government alone. It is about building up our VWO partners and supporting community volunteers in every field, so that we can support the disabled, poor and elderly. None of this is about just the Government and the CDC, but also about community organisations and volunteers who are there with us.
69. So these are the four prongs by which we tackle the challenge of inequality, and we are going to do more and do better on each of the four prongs.