A CARING AND INCLUSIVE SOCIETY
- I have spoken about how we invest to secure our home and grow our economy. At the heart of these efforts is the desire to improve the lives of current and future generations of Singaporeans.
- Our approach to social development has served us well.
- We invest heavily to bring out the best in our people.
- We believe that access to quality education enables Singaporeans to realise their potential.
- We strive to ensure that all Singaporeans, regardless of background, enjoy a quality living environment and have good access to healthcare.
- And, we provide targeted support to those who are less advantaged, so that they can have a fair chance to succeed; and to those who fall on hard times, so they can bounce back.
- Our efforts were affirmed by the World Bank when they ranked Singapore top in the Human Capital Index last year11.
- We recognise that Singapore, like many advanced economies, will have to deal with issues such as:
- Maintaining social mobility;
- Supporting healthy and purposeful ageing;
- And fostering a stronger sense of unity amid polarising forces.
- Over the past decade or so, we have significantly increased our social spending.
- Social ministries’ expenditures have doubled from $15 billion in FY2009, to $30 billion in FY201812.
- The social measures in Budget 2019 are part of our long-term plan to build a caring and inclusive society. They are driven by three main strategies:
- First, uplifting Singaporeans to maximise their potential and providing access to opportunities through their stages of life.
- We pay particular attention to children from disadvantaged backgrounds, to give them a good start in life.
- With increasing lifespans, we are helping older Singaporeans stay in the workforce, so that they can earn and save more for retirement.
- Second, providing greater assurance for healthcare.
- We will continue to strengthen support for the healthcare needs of Singaporeans.
- In particular, we want to help our seniors stay active, healthy, and engaged in their silver years.
- Third, fostering a community of care and contribution, through strong partnerships.
- We strive to nurture an ethos in our society, where we support one another, and give a helping hand where we can.
- Those who succeed should help to uplift others, just as they have benefitted from the support of others around them.
- As the Chinese say, “同舟共济，共创未来”. We are in the same boat, and weather the storms together. We progress together, and forge our future together.
Uplifting Every Singaporean
- I will first talk about how we are supporting our children, workers, and seniors to access the best opportunities, through each stage of life.
Strengthening Support in Education
- We invest heavily to provide a world-class education for young Singaporeans. This is to bring out the best in every child, no matter his or her starting point.
- I know that this is an area of deep concern for many Singaporeans. Many of you expressed this during feedback sessions, and through your actions in giving time and money to help children in need.
- Pre-schools support parents in laying a strong foundation for children – by helping to develop children’s cognitive, language, social, and emotional skills.
- Therefore, we are spending more to enhance the accessibility, affordability, and quality of early childhood education and care.
- The Government spent about $1 billion on the pre-school sector in 2018. This is more than two and a half times of the $360 million that we spent back in 2012.
- And this support continues throughout the schooling years.
- The Government subsidises over 90% of the total cost of educating our children.
- This means that a child entering primary school in 2018 will receive over $130,000 in education subsidies by the time he or she completes secondary education.
- Children from lower-income families get even more support, for example, through the recently enhanced MOE Financial Assistance Scheme.
- We have been doing more to better support children from disadvantaged backgrounds, by intervening earlier, with new forms of proactive and targeted support.
- One such effort is KidSTART.
- KidSTART practitioners, pre-schools, and community partners work together to provide health, learning, and developmental support for children and their families.
- Since the pilot began in 2016, more than 900 families have been supported by KidSTART.
- Last year, we set up the Uplifting Pupils in Life and Inspiring Families Taskforce (UPLIFT).
- This taskforce will pilot upstream interventions and partner communities to help disadvantaged children and their families, to ensure that no child is left behind.
- A recent initiative is the UPLIFT scholarship for Independent Schools.
- This will provide a monetary award of $800 per year for eligible lower-income students in Independent Schools, to cover their out-of-pocket expenses.
- The taskforce is also looking at how to strengthen after-school care and support for disadvantaged students in school-based Student Care Centres.
- The Minister for Education will speak about this and other initiatives spurred by UPLIFT at the COS.
Supplementing Incomes of Lower-Wage Workers
- Our support for Singaporeans continues into their working lives.
- Workfare and Silver Support, is a key pillar of our social security system. The two schemes supplement incomes and mitigate inequality in the working and retirement years respectively.
- The Workfare Income Supplement (WIS) scheme provides cash payouts and CPF top-ups for workers whose earnings are in the bottom 20%, with some support for those slightly above. The scheme has raised their incomes, encouraged
employment, and helped them save more for retirement.
- We will enhance WIS to better support lower-wage workers.
- From January 2020, the qualifying income cap will be raised from the current $2,000 to $2,300 per month.
- The maximum annual payouts will also be increased by up to $400. Older workers will see higher increases in payouts.
- For example, workers aged 60 and earning $1,200 a month will now receive $4,000 per year from WIS, or almost 30% of their wages.
- These enhancements will cost an additional $206 million a year.
- In total, we expect the enhanced WIS to cost close to $1 billion a year, and benefit almost 440,000 Singaporeans. (Refer to Annex D-1.)
Supporting Older Workers
- As our society ages, older workers will make up an increasing share of our workforce.
- Today, about one in four of our workforce is aged 55 and above. They continue to make important contributions to our economy and society.
- Some are giving back by mentoring the younger generations, while others wish to continue working.
- We are doing more to help older Singaporeans earn more, save more, and have greater peace of mind during their retirement years.
- I appreciate the concerns and suggestions regarding the retirement adequacy of older workers, raised by members of the public and the PAP Seniors Group, among others. And I thank the Members of this House for your views
during the recent debate on the motions on ageing with purpose and support for caregivers.
- The Government has set up a Tripartite Workgroup to study the concerns of older workers.
- The Workgroup is reviewing policies such as the retirement and re-employment age, and the CPF contribution rates of older workers.
- They will present their recommendations later this year.
- To support employers in hiring older Singaporean workers, the Government introduced the Special Employment Credit (SEC) scheme in 2011.
- Since then, we have extended and made changes to the SEC in response to labour market and economic conditions.
- We have also introduced an Additional SEC (ASEC) scheme, to encourage employers to hire workers who are above the re-employment age.
- I am happy that companies have responded by hiring older workers, tapping on their experiences, and supporting them in upgrading their skills.
- With a tighter labour market, and more Singaporeans choosing to work longer, more companies will be hiring older workers.
- The Government will study better forms of support to continue to help workers to remain productive, earn more, and save more for retirement.
- We will review the relevance and structure of the SEC and ASEC, in tandem with the recommendations from the Tripartite Workgroup on Older Workers.
- In the meantime, I will extend the SEC and ASEC for another year, until 31 December 2020.
- To support this extension, I will top up the SEC Fund by $366 million.
- Taken together, Members will see that the Government has been making significant investments in education and employment for our people, from early childhood to the working years.
- Our aim is to help Singaporeans fulfil their potential at each stage of life.
- We are improving the lives of our people, by enabling them to be the best that they can be. We enhance our people’s sense of well-being and dignity, without the burden of welfare schemes elsewhere, which weaken people’s sense of
agency and independence.
Greater Healthcare Assurance
- As more Singaporeans enter their senior years, healthcare needs will grow.
- Over the years, we have implemented major changes to make healthcare more affordable, accessible, and comprehensive.
- We have also been providing greater social support within the community to help seniors stay active, through programmes such as the PA Wellness Programme and the Community Networks for Seniors.
- Our second social strategy is to provide greater healthcare assurance.
More Affordable Care, Closer to Homes
- First, doctors at our neighbourhood clinics provide primary care that is easily accessible. This helps us stay healthy. To enhance access, we will make it more affordable to consult doctors in our neighbourhoods.
- We introduced the Community Health Assist Scheme (CHAS) in 2012.
- CHAS subsidies help lower- to middle-income families by making primary care and basic dental care at clinics near their homes more affordable.
- Over 97% of existing CHAS and Pioneer Generation cardholders have access to more than one CHAS clinic within 10 minutes from their homes.
- We will enhance CHAS subsidies at GP clinics in three ways:
- As the Prime Minister announced at the National Day Rally last year, we will extend CHAS to cover all Singaporeans for chronic conditions, regardless of income.
- Second, lower- to middle-income Singaporeans who are CHAS Orange cardholders currently receive CHAS subsidies for chronic conditions only. We will extend subsidies for common illnesses to this group.
- Third, we will increase the subsidies for complex chronic conditions.
- CHAS makes it possible for more Singaporeans to turn to GP clinics near their homes to manage their chronic conditions.
- But we must also put in the measures to ensure that CHAS clinics are delivering good outcomes.
- To this end, the Ministry of Health (MOH) will be looking at how to help CHAS clinics better track their patients’ progress and outcomes.
- In a similar vein, MOH will also review its clinical guidelines for care provided at CHAS dental clinics, to ensure that the care delivered is
appropriate to the needs of the patient.
- With these changes, we expect to pay out more than $200 million a year in CHAS subsidies. The Minister for Health will provide more details on these changes at the COS.
Financial Protection for Long-Term Care
- A second way to provide greater healthcare assurance is that we will strengthen financial protection for long-term care.
- As we age, the chances of having one form of disability or another rises significantly.
- MOH estimates that one in two healthy Singaporeans aged 65 could become severely disabled in their lifetime, and may need long-term care.
- Some of us face a higher risk, some lower. But regardless, low risk does not mean no risk.
- The best way of protecting ourselves is to lead a healthy lifestyle, and take preventive actions.
- At the same time, we need to guard against unpredictable events. The most efficient way is to help one another, by pooling risk through an insurance scheme.
- Today, we have MediShield Life, for all Singaporeans, to provide financial protection against large hospital bills, for life.
- As we live longer, there is a higher chance that we will need long-term care towards the end of our lives. We need to prepare for this.
- The Ministry of Health has announced that it will be introducing the new CareShield Life from 2020, an enhancement of the current ElderShield scheme.
- CareShield Life will provide lifetime coverage, with higher monthly payouts of at least $600 a month for those who become severely disabled. This offsets the costs of long-term care for individuals and their families.
- The Government will provide subsidies and premium support to ensure that CareShield Life premiums are affordable.
- We will also offer participation incentives for existing cohorts, born in 1979 or earlier, to join CareShield Life, so that they are better protected should they need care in the future.
- CareShield Life will offer much greater peace of mind for Singaporeans.
- In addition, we will also launch ElderFund next year, to help severely disabled, lower-income Singaporeans who need additional financial support for long-term care. This includes those who might not be able to join CareShield
Life, or have low MediSave balances.
- The cost of long-term care is not only high, but will increase as our population ages.
- Last year, I earmarked $2 billion for premium subsidies and other forms of support for Singaporeans.
- This year, I will set aside another $3.1 billion.
- The Government will put this $5.1 billion into a new Long-Term Care Support Fund. This will help fund the CareShield Life subsidies and other long-term care support measures, such as ElderFund.
- This is a significant commitment to help Singaporeans with their long-term care needs.
Merdeka Generation Package
- As the Prime Minister mentioned at the National Day Rally last year and the Tribute event earlier this month, we would also like to express our appreciation and support for our Merdeka Generation.
- The Merdeka Generation is a resilient and independent generation.
- They played a critical role in our nation’s development.
- The Merdeka Generation was among the earliest batches to serve National Service, build up our public services, and modernise our economy.
- They came together to forge our multi-cultural, multi-racial society.
- One member of the Merdeka Generation is Ms Barbara D’ Cotta.
- Ms D’ Cotta started work as a special education teacher at the age of 19 to help support her mother. In 1984, she was among the first batch of teachers to attain a Certificate in Special Education.
Throughout her life, she continued learning, and completed her Bachelor in Special Education in 2016, at the age of 57!
- Today, she is a Specialised Teacher for students with hearing deficiencies and a volunteer interpreter. She is also pursuing her Master of Special Education. She is an excellent example of lifelong
learning and giving.
- I am glad to have met Ms D’ Cotta and many others who built our nation, at our Merdeka Generation Tribute event.
- They continue to be an active generation, contributing in their various capacities – at work, in the community, caring for their families, and learning something new.
- The Merdeka Generation Package is a gesture of our nation’s gratitude for their contributions and a way to show care for them in their silver years. It will provide them better peace of mind over future
healthcare costs, while helping them to stay active and healthy.
- The Merdeka Generation Package, or MGP, comprises five key benefits.
- First, to support their active lifestyles, all Merdeka Generation (MG) seniors will receive a one-time $100 top-up to their PAssion Silver cards.
- They can use this to pay for activities and facilities at the Community Clubs, entry to public swimming pools, public transport, and more.
- We will also work to introduce more active ageing opportunities for seniors, such as lifelong learning under the National Silver Academy and volunteerism under the Silver Volunteer Fund.
- Second, we will provide a MediSave top-up of $200 per year for five years. This will start from this year until 2023.
- This will help them save more for their healthcare needs. This is on top of the GST Voucher – MediSave top-ups that eligible seniors aged 65 and above receive every year.
- Third, MG seniors will receive additional subsidies for outpatient care, for life.
- i. They will receive special CHAS subsidies, for common illnesses, chronic conditions, and dental procedures. The subsidy rates will be higher than the CHAS Blue subsidies.
All MG seniors will receive these enhanced subsidies, regardless of income, including those who do not have a CHAS card today.
- ii. At polyclinics and public Specialist Outpatient Clinics, they will receive 25% off their subsidised bills. This is on top of the prevailing subsidies available.
- Fourth, MG seniors will have additional MediShield Life premium subsidies, for life.
- All MG seniors will receive subsidies for their premiums, starting from 5% of their MediShield Life premiums, and increasing to 10% after they reach 75 years of age.
- This is on top of the means-tested subsidies that lower- to middle-income Singaporeans are already receiving. (See Table D-1.)
- Finally, we will provide an additional participation incentive of $1,500 for MG seniors who join CareShield Life, when it becomes available for existing cohorts in 2021.
- In addition to the $2,500 previously announced, this means that all MG seniors who join CareShield Life will receive participation incentives totalling $4,000 each.
- This will cover a significant portion of their premiums, and is on top of the regular means-tested premium subsidies.
- I hope that this will encourage our MG seniors to join CareShield Life, to have peace of mind against the risk of high long-term care costs.
- The Merdeka Generation Package will benefit close to 500,000 Singaporeans.
- Those born in the 1950s and who obtained citizenship by 1996 will be eligible for the MGP.
- In addition, we will extend the MGP benefits to those born in 1949 or earlier, but missed out on the Pioneer Generation Package (PGP), if they obtained citizenship by 1996.
- All eligible seniors will receive the MGP benefits, regardless of their income.
- They will be notified by April 2019, and will receive their Merdeka Generation cards starting from June 2019.
- The Minister for Health will provide further details and the implementation timeline for the MGP benefits at the COS.
- The Merdeka Generation is aged 60 to 69 today.
- Singaporeans’ lifespans are increasing – our life expectancy is now 84.8 years13.
- This is good news. It also means the Merdeka Generation will be able to enjoy the benefits for many years.
- The Ministry of Finance and MOH, in sizing the budget for these benefits, have taken this into account.
- We estimate that the package will cost over $8 billion, in current dollars, over the Merdeka Generation’s lifetimes.
- This Budget, I will set aside $6.1 billion for a new Merdeka Generation Fund.
- With interest accumulated over time, this will cover the full projected costs of the Merdeka Generation Package.
- The Merdeka Generation will enjoy many key healthcare benefits for life. We hope that this will go some way in providing greater peace of mind for the Merdeka Generation and their families.
- This is a significant commitment by the Government.
- It is important that the Government of the day continues to monitor the patterns and cost of healthcare utilisation, and life expectancy over the next 30 years or more, so that the Government is able to meet this commitment.
Five-Year MediSave Top-ups
- To better prepare for increasing lifespans, we should encourage everyone to set aside something for the future.
- To help Singaporeans who are younger than the Merdeka Generation with their future healthcare expenses, I will provide MediSave top-up of $100 a year, for the next five years, for Singaporeans who are:
- Aged 50 and above in 2019;
- And who do not receive the MGP or the PGP. (Refer to Annex D-2.)
- This is a generation who are even younger and healthier, and I hope that everyone will make the extra effort to stay active and healthy.
A Community of Care and Contribution
- Our third social strategy is to foster a community of care and contribution, and build strong partnerships in our society.
- The Government will continue to make every effort to care for our seniors, the disadvantaged, and vulnerable families.
ComCare Long-Term Assistance and Singapore Allowance
- The ComCare Long-Term Assistance14 scheme provides basic monthly cash assistance to those who are permanently unable to work and have little family support, to support their living expenses.
Additional assistance is provided for households with additional needs, such as medical supplies.
- We will raise the cash assistance rates for this scheme.
- For example, a two-person household, where both are on ComCare Long-Term Assistance, will receive an additional $130 a month. This brings the total cash assistance to $1,000 a month.
- The Minister for Social and Family Development will provide more details at the COS.
- To help government pensioners who draw lower pensions, we will increase the Singapore Allowance and monthly pension ceiling by $20 per month each, to $320 and $1,250 respectively. This will benefit about
- Working alongside the Government, individuals, non-profit organisations, and corporates have all been playing their part – contributing their skills, their time, and their hearts.
- As we reflect on our history and culture in this bicentennial year, we see this spirit of helping one another as a community in action over time.
- In the past, our forefathers who arrived in Singapore banded together mainly within their ethnic groups, forming various clans and associations, as the support of the Government then was inadequate.
- Today, I am glad that this spirit extends across ethnic and religious lines in our society.
- In the last few months, we have received many good suggestions from members of the public on cultivating this community spirit to help those in need.
- As our society ages and new needs emerge, we hope everyone will lend a helping hand.
- One good example is Mr Shaleem Khamalluden and his friends from PALS Singapore. PALS stands for Peace and Love Society, a non-profit organisation that provides a support network for Singaporean youths from all backgrounds.
- Through sports events and workshops, Shaleem and other like-minded volunteers have been helping young Singaporeans learn skills to overcome challenges such as bullying and cyber-addiction.
- To date, they have touched the lives of about 800 youths.
- Another example is Dr Rose Sivam, who started My Home, Your Home.
- With her husband as the chef, Rose and her family bring together people from various backgrounds, including those with disabilities and children with special needs, to share a meal in her home.
- This is another good example of our community spirit – how we care for the less privileged and build unity in our diversity.
- I am heartened that many other Singaporeans, too, have stepped forward in their own ways to make a difference within their community, and I encourage everyone to do their part.
- I spoke about the SG Cares movement at last year’s Budget.
- It seeks to bring together the public, people, and private sectors in partnership;
- Create a greater collective impact;
- And grow as a community of care and contribution.
- This year, we continue to build on the SG Cares movement. We will have three measures to mobilise our people across all age groups, and across the public, private, and people sectors.
- First, growing the spirit of volunteerism in our youth.
- Many of our secondary school students are already active volunteers, and are giving back to the community.
- We want to sustain this momentum, as they move to IHLs, and later into the workplace.
- We are working with Youth Corps Singapore to nurture youth community leaders in our IHLs, who can in turn rally their peers to be involved in the community on a sustained basis.
- Second, our seniors have an abundance of skills and experience to make meaningful contributions.
- To enable more of them to do so, we will work with community partners and companies to encourage volunteerism among older workers.
- This will also enable our seniors to stay active and contribute to the community, at work and when they retire.
- Third, the Government is encouraging all public officers to volunteer, under the Public Service Cares initiative.
- Today, each ministry has a senior officer, appointed as the Giving Ambassador, to champion volunteerism. More than 85% of public officers are making monthly donations.
- Going forward, Public Service Cares will strengthen capabilities in Corporate Social Responsibility, and create larger-scale and sustained volunteering opportunities for public officers across agencies. For example, they can
take part in house visits to share healthcare and active ageing schemes, or guide seniors in using their mobile devices at digital clinics.
- This will also help Public Service officers to better understand citizens’ needs, and co-deliver services with the people and private sectors.
- This is the Public Service’s contribution to the SG Cares movement.
- The Minister for Culture, Community and Youth will be sharing more on SG Cares at the COS. (Refer to Annex D-3.)
Commemorating Our Bicentennial
- The spirit of giving back has a special meaning this year, as we commemorate the Singapore Bicentennial.
- Therefore, I will launch two special initiatives in support of this.
- First, I will set aside $200 million for a Bicentennial Community Fund.
- Today, we encourage individuals and corporates to give back to the community in various ways.
- Donations to Institutions of a Public Character (IPCs) qualify for a 250% tax deduction.
- Businesses also enjoy a 250% tax deduction on qualifying expenditure when their employees volunteer or provide services to IPCs, under the Business and IPC Partnership Scheme.
- The new Bicentennial Community Fund will provide dollar-for-dollar matching for donations made to IPCs in FY2019.
- With this, we hope to further encourage more Singaporeans, including younger Singaporeans, to embrace the spirit of giving back.
- 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 currently do not receive government matching, and to increase the impact of the good work they are
- We have also enhanced our one-stop platform, Giving.sg, to better match donors and volunteers with meaningful causes.
- This platform provides charities with an easy and secure way to establish an online presence, and to receive donations digitally.
- Donors, too, can quickly navigate and find a worthy cause that matches their passion and commitment, and start on their giving journey.
- Details will be shared by the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth at a later date.
- Second, I will introduce a $1.1 billion Bicentennial Bonus.
- From time to time, when our finances allow, we share the surpluses with Singaporeans, and provide more help to those with specific needs.
- With this Bonus, I hope that all Singaporeans, young and old, will join us to commemorate this significant moment in Singapore’s history.
- The Bicentennial Bonus has several components (refer to Annex D-4):
- For lower-income Singaporeans, I will provide additional help with their daily living expenses.
- I will provide up to $300 through a GST Voucher – Cash (Bicentennial Payment). This will benefit 1.4 million Singaporeans.
- In addition, lower-income workers who received WIS payments will get a Workfare Bicentennial Bonus. They will receive an additional 10% of their WIS payment for work done in 2018, with
a minimum payment of $100. This will be given in cash.
- I will provide a 50% Personal Income Tax Rebate, subject to a cap of $200, for the Year of Assessment 2019. I have set the cap at $200 so that the benefits go mostly to middle-income earners.
- For parents with school-going children, we will provide additional support for their children’s education.
- Each year, the Government contributes to the Edusave accounts of all Singaporean students at primary and secondary school levels. This helps to pay for school enrichment activities, to better develop
- This year, we will provide a $150 top-up to their Edusave accounts. This is on top of the annual Edusave contributions that they already receive from the Government.
- In addition, Singaporeans aged 17 to 20 will receive up to $500 in their Post-Secondary Education Accounts (PSEA)15. This will go towards helping parents to save for their
children’s tertiary education.
- We will also provide additional support for older Singaporeans, who are near retirement.
- I will provide a CPF top-up of up to $1,000 for eligible Singaporeans aged 50 to 64 years old in 2019, who have less than $60,000 of retirement savings in their CPF accounts16.
This will be credited into the Special Account for members aged 50 to 54, and the Retirement Account for members aged 55 to 64.
- About 300,000 Singaporeans will benefit from this CPF top-up.
- The majority of these recipients will be women. Many of them left the workforce early, and took up important roles as mothers, caregivers, or housewives. 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.
- In addition to the CPF top-up, Singaporeans in the age group of 50 to 64 who qualify for Workfare will also benefit from the WIS enhancements that I mentioned earlier.
- Most of those in the 60 to 64 age group will also receive the Merdeka Generation Package, while the rest will receive the five-year MediSave top-ups. These are all on top of the targeted benefits such as
the GST Voucher.
- Together, we hope that these measures will provide greater peace of mind for our older workers now and later in their silver years.
Other Support for Households
- In addition to the special Bicentennial initiatives, we will provide another year of Service and Conservancy Charges (S&CC) Rebate to HDB households.
- Eligible Singaporean households will receive S&CC rebates of between one and a half, and three and a half (1.5 to 3.5) months.
- This will cost $132 million and benefit about 930,000 households. (Refer to Annex D-2.)
- Finally, I will top up the Public Transport Fund by $10 million, to continue helping commuters in need with their transport expenses, such as through Public Transport Vouchers for lower-income families.
- The Government keeps a close watch on the cost of living.
- Over the years, we have done much to alleviate cost pressures – whether in healthcare, education, or day-to-day expenses.
- Good macro-economic management has enabled us to keep inflation low, while the Singapore dollar has been strengthening over time. Many Singaporeans who go on overseas vacations would appreciate this.
- Over and above these favourable conditions, this Budget continues to provide significant support for Singaporeans, especially our seniors and lower-income households.
- Budget 2019 supports the Government’s long-term strategy to build a caring and inclusive society. This is our continued effort to improve the lives of our people and our future generations.