Thank you for actively contributing to the making of Budget 2013 with your views and ideas. Since the launch of our exercise on 3 Dec 2012, we have received close to 1,500 suggestions. Your thoughts and ideas have helped in shaping Budget 2013. We have provided here a summary of your suggestions.
Foreign Worker Policy
Many expressed concerns about the large influx of foreign workers and emphasised the need to build a Singaporean core in our workforce.
The Government agrees on the need to manage our dependence on foreign workers, and to help companies raise productivity. In Budget 2013, further Dependency Ratio Ceiling (DRC) cuts were made for sectors that have continued to see significant growth in foreign worker numbers. Foreign worker levies will also be increased across all sectors. The additional levies collected will be channelled back to help businesses upgrade and share productivity gains with their workers.
Quality Growth for Businesses and SMEs
Many hoped for more Government support for businesses, especially SMEs, to manage rising rental and labour costs and to upgrade their workers during this period of economic restructuring.
In response to these calls, the Quality Growth Programme was introduced in Budget 2013. It comprises a three-year Transition Support Package that helps businesses cope with rising costs while restructuring for productivity.
Businesses and workers can benefit from the Wage Credit Scheme (WCS) where the Government will co-fund 40% of wage increases for Singaporean employees earning up to a gross monthly wage of $4,000 per month over the next three years.
To help companies alleviate rising business costs, companies will also receive a Corporate Income Tax (CIT) rebate of 30% of tax payable for the next 3 years, subject to a cap of $30,000 per Year of Assessment (YA).
The Productivity and Innovation Credit (PIC) bonus will provide companies with a dollar-for-dollar matching cash bonus up to $15,000 from YA 2013 to YA 2015 for investments in productivity and innovation. This is in addition to existing PIC benefits.
We acknowledge the feedback that Government schemes and grants should be simplified, so as to enable more SMEs to benefit. SPRING will set up more SME centres to increase their outreach to SME clients.
Enhance Support for Pre-school Education
With the introduction of the enhanced Marriage and Parenthood package, there were many calls for the Government to provide more support for childcare and pre-school education.
In January this year, childcare and infant care subsidies were raised. Government will also more than double its spending on the pre-school sector over the next five years to over $3 billion to expand capacity, bring more operators onto the Anchor Operator scheme and raise the quality of pre-school teachers. The Ministry of Education will also set up 15 kindergartens to raise the overall quality of pre-school education.
Helping the Disadvantaged Group
Many gave suggestions on improving social services and social safety nets to help the disadvantaged group, such as the elderly and disabled.
Taking on board this feedback, we will enhance the Public Assistance Scheme, including higher monthly payout, to provide greater and more flexible help for the needy.
To provide more social services within the community, the Government will set up about 20 Social Service Offices in HDB towns over the next few years.
Stronger elder care services can now be provided, as eldercare services will be consolidated under one roof at the Agency of Integrated Care.
Uplifting Low Income Families
Many expressed their hopes that more assistance could be given to lower income families. Suggestions included providing more rebates and tax exemptions for lower- and middle-income households, and enhancing the Workfare Income Supplement (WIS) scheme.
In Budget 2013, significant enhancements were made to the WIS scheme. Some key revisions include the extension of the income cap from $1,700 to $1,900 to benefit more Singaporean workers, increase in maximum WIS payouts by 25%-50%, higher proportion of WIS to be paid out in cash and increase in WIS payments to the CPF Medisave and Special Accounts.
Support to Cope with Rising Cost of Living
Many also wrote to us as they were concerned about the rising cost of living. To help households facing cost of living pressures, the Government will double the GST Voucher payments through a one-off GST Voucher Special payment in 2013. The GST Voucher Fund will also receive a $3 billion top-up to underscore the Government’s commitment to support the GST Voucher as a permanent scheme.
Government will also provide 1 to 3 months of Service & Conservancy Charges (S&CC) rebates.In addition, a Personal Income Tax Rebate of 30% (up to $1500) will be given this year to all taxpayers, with a larger rebate for those who are 60 years old and above.
To provide more assistance to older Singaporeans aged 45 and above, they will receive a $200 Medisave top-up this year.
Enhancing Public Transport
We have received feedback and ideas on how we can reduce congestion and improve the reliability of our public transport system. The Minister for Transport has announced that the Government will:
- Further speed up bus service improvements under the Bus Service Enhancement Programme (BSEP). We will also tender out routes to private bus operators.
- Add new trains and increase frequencies over the next five years.
- Impose stronger regulation, and incentive and penalty frameworks to make our bus and train services more reliable. For example, under the Quality Incentive Framework, bus operators will be incentivised to enhance their en-route management of bus services and penalised when standards are not met.
- Study how to enhance incentives to shift more commuters away from peak hour travel on trains.
Rising Healthcare Costs
There were concerns over rising healthcare costs and access to good healthcare. Many had asked for more subsidies and to have greater flexibility in the use of Medisave. The Government is currently reviewing the healthcare financing system to meet the evolving needs of our population. As the review is extensive and will involve fundamental shifts, it will take time to complete.
While the review is ongoing, the Government has introduced immediate changes in 2013 to keep healthcare costs affordable. These include providing a $1 billion top-up to the Medifund to help needy patients with their healthcare bills, expanding the list of subsidised drugs to benefit more patients, and waiving the Medisave transaction fee for patients. In addition, we expanded the Senior’s Mobility Fund (SMF) into a Senior’s Mobility and Enabling Fund (SMEF) to provide subsidies for a wider range of assistive devices, as well as healthcare consumables for low- to middle-income elderly. This year, we also provided Medisave top-ups for older Singaporeans, on top of the Medisave top-ups in the GST Voucher.
We appreciate your views in helping to shape Budget 2013. Your feedback is invaluable to us in improving our public policies to build a more inclusive and stronger Singapore. Although the Budget feedback process has ended, do continue to share your feedback through REACH channels.