C. Caring For Singaporeans, Building An Inclusive Home

    Caring For Singaporeans, Building An Inclusive Home

  1. Mr Speaker, Sir, a vibrant economy provides good jobs and opportunities for Singaporeans, and allows families to do well.
  2. It also gives us the resources to support our people with their needs, to build a caring and inclusive home.
  3. Our tax and spending policies reflect our values.
    1. Over the past decade, we have significantly increased our social spending.
    2. Between 2010 and 2019:
      1. We tripled our healthcare expenditure from $4 billion to about $12 billion a year, to meet the growing needs of our seniors and to ensure that every Singaporean has access to affordable and quality healthcare.
      2. We increased our investments in education, from $10 billion to about $13 billion, so that all Singaporeans will have the best chance to fulfil their fullest potential.
      3. We increased the expenditure on national development from $2.4 billion to $3.6 billion, with the bulk of this going into subsidies on public housing, so that every Singaporean household can have a home to call their own.
    3. Last year, we gave out about $1.1 billion in cash to Singaporeans who need more help. The payouts were provided through structural schemes such as ComCare for the vulnerable, Workfare Income Supplement for lower-wage workers, GST Voucher – Cash for lower-income Singaporeans, and Silver Support for the vulnerable elderly.
  4. This social spending reflects our commitment to invest in our people, to give every citizen a stake in our society, to care for our seniors, and to provide more help to those with less.
  5. This Budget, we will continue to care for Singaporeans in the following ways:
    1. First, we will build on our efforts to support our families.
    2. Second, we will support and enable our seniors in their retirement years.
    3. Third, we will promote a stronger giving culture.
  6. Supporting Families

  7. I will first touch on how we will further support our families.
  8. Pre-school Years

  9. Good education provides a strong foundation for children to grow, realise their aspirations, and continue a journey of lifelong learning. We have committed to decisive shifts in the Government’s support for early childhood development. We are determined to give every child, regardless of circumstances, a good start in life.
    1. As PM announced at the National Day Rally last year, we will step up efforts to improve the affordability, accessibility, and quality of pre-school services.
    2. We have significantly enhanced pre-school subsidies and made them available to more families from this year.
    3. We will also increase the share of government-supported pre-school places from just over 50% today, to 80% by around 2025.
    4. Overall, we are doubling our support for our young in their pre-school years.
      1. In 2018, the Government spent about $1 billion on the early childhood sector.
      2. Within the next few years, this will double to over $2 billion per year.
  10. Primary to Pre-University School Years

  11. In the primary to pre-university school years, education is already heavily subsidised for Singaporeans. Primary school is free for all Singaporeans, while the secondary school fee is $5 a month. Students pay only a few dollars of miscellaneous fees.
  12. For students from lower-income families, we will provide further help.
    1. We will enhance the MOE Financial Assistance Scheme by raising the annual bursary quantum for pre-university students, from $900 to $1,000.
      1. We will also increase transport subsidies for all students, and school meals subsidies for secondary school students.
  13. The enhanced Financial Assistance Scheme will cost an additional $9 million per year, or a total of $52 million per year.
  14. Higher Education Years

  15. We announced that we would enhance bursaries for diploma and degree holders last year. These bursaries are on top of subsidies that are provided to all Singaporeans.
    1. Starting from Academic Year 2020, students from lower- and middle-income families in the polytechnics and autonomous universities can benefit from higher bursaries.
    2. We will also enhance bursaries for full-time ITE students from Academic Year 2020. Students from households who qualify under the lowest income tier for the bursaries will now receive 100% fee subsidy on top of the cash bursary. Students from low- and middle-income households will also benefit from an increase in the cash bursary quantum by up to $200 a year.
  16. The cost of bursaries for higher education will rise from $148 million per year to $198  million per year.
  17. Overall Education Benefits

  18. A good education lays a strong foundation for a better future. This is why this Government has been providing significant education subsidies for each child.
  19. A Singaporean child will receive over $180,000 of education subsidies in total by the time he turns 16. This includes about $50,000 in Government subsidies over five years when they enrol in a full-day childcare programme with one of the Anchor Operators.
  20. For those who come from less-privileged backgrounds, there are additional subsidies for pre-school, bursaries, and other financial assistance schemes.
  21. This substantial investment is how we maximise every child’s potential, regardless of family circumstances.
    1. This is a promise that I, as a former Education Minister and now Finance Minister, am committed to keep.
  22. Housing Affordability

  23. When Singaporeans are ready to start a family and own a home, we make sure that there is good access to quality and affordable housing.
    1. Last year, MND consolidated existing housing grants into the Enhanced CPF Housing Grant.
      1. With the Enhanced Housing Grant, first-time flat buyers can now enjoy up to $160,000 in housing grants.
      2. The monthly household income ceilings for subsidised flats and executive condominiums were raised to $14,000 and $16,000 respectively. We expect around 16,000 HDB households to benefit from these enhancements each year.
  24. Care and Support Package for Households

  25. The Government has made significant moves to help Singaporeans manage major expenditures in life, through structural subsidies in education, housing, and healthcare.
  26. This year, with the economic slowdown and the uncertainties of the COVID-19 outbreak, we are mindful that many families are facing greater pressures. During my fellow MPs’ and my own walkabouts, people often tell us that they are worried about job security and rising expenditures.
  27. To help all Singaporeans with their household expenses during this period of uncertainty, I will provide a comprehensive Care and Support Package for households, amounting to about $1.6 billion.
    1. All Singaporeans aged 21 and above in 2020 will receive a one-off cash payout of $300, $200 or $100, depending on their income.
    2. The annual GST Voucher – U-Save provides rebates to help HDB households with their utilities expenses. This year, I will double the amount of U-Save rebates through a one-off GST Voucher – U-Save Special Payment to all eligible HDB households. This will help to free up cash for other household expenses.
    3. In addition, I will extend the Service and Conservancy Charges Rebate by another year. Eligible HDB households will receive rebates of between one and a half, and three and a half months.
    4. Lower-income Singaporeans will get additional help with their daily living expenses.
      1. In October 2019, we announced the Workfare Transport Concession Scheme and the Public Transport Voucher to help cushion the transport fare increase for lower-income households.
      2. To further offset daily living expenses for lower-income workers, I will provide a Workfare Special Payment. Singaporeans on Workfare will receive 20% more for work done in 2019, with a minimum payment of $100. This will be given in cash.
      3. I will also help needy Singaporeans more directly. They will receive Grocery Vouchers worth $100 each year in 2020 and 2021, for use at major supermarkets. This directly helps needy households with one of their major cost of living items – food.
    5. There will be additional help for families taking care of children and elderly parents.
      1. I will provide a further $100 cash payout for every adult Singaporean with at least one Singaporean child aged 20 years and below this year.
      2. I will provide an additional GST Voucher – U-Save rebate for larger households with five or more members, to help them with their utilities bills. Together with the U-Save Special Payment I mentioned earlier, larger households can receive a total of 2.5 times their regular U-Save rebates this year. These households can receive up to $1,000 in U-Save rebates, depending on their flat type.
      3. I will also provide a $100 top-up to the PAssion Card to all Singaporeans aged 50 years and above this year, including the Pioneer Generation and Merdeka Generation seniors. This can be used to pay for groceries, activities and facilities at Community Clubs, and more. Those who do not currently have a PAssion Card can get one for free to receive the top-up.
    6. Our Self-Help Groups have also been working closely with the community to help needy families and children. To enable them to do more, I will provide a $10  million grant to them over two years so that they can help more families.
    7. The Community Development Councils or CDCs have also played an important role in partnering the community to strengthen bonds and help vulnerable groups.
      1. Each CDC has its set of local assistance schemes to meet local needs, and programmes that allow community members to help those with extra needs.
      2. I will provide $20 million for the CDCs to do more, and better meet the needs of their residents through local initiatives.
  28. Together, the Care and Support Package will provide a young family with about $1,300. A 3-Generation family can receive more – about $1,800. More details are provided on the slide and in the Annex. [See Annex C-1.]
  29. Enabling Seniors

  30. Let me now move on to the second area, which is to support and enable our seniors.
  31. Singaporeans are living longer. Our life expectancy at birth is close to 85 years, the longest in the world. This is a good thing!
  32. Singapore will not just be a great place to raise a family, but a great place for seniors to live a life of purpose, dignity, and contribution.
    1. The Community Networks for Seniors is now a national programme, with 650 active ageing nodes to engage our seniors.
  33. We must see ageing as a positive force, and turn this phase of life into a time of opportunity.
  34. Ageing with confidence includes having financial assurance in retirement.
    1. This can be achieved through a combination of individual effort, family, community, and Government support.
    2. Over the years, we have strengthened the four pillars of our social security system – home ownership, CPF, healthcare assurance, and income from Workfare and Silver Support. We have also been enhancing the ComCare schemes, which support Singaporeans who are unable to work and have little or no family support.
  35. The CPF is a major scheme to enable Singaporeans to save enough for their retirement years. We need to keep on updating and improving our CPF policies over time, so that they remain appropriate for each cohort.
    1. We have been adjusting the Basic Retirement Sum, or BRS, regularly, in line with rising income levels. Since 2017, household incomes per capita have risen by an average of 4.1% per year (in nominal terms), while the BRS has increased by 3% per year. The BRS is currently $90,500 for the cohort turning 55 this year.
    2. We will continue to adjust the BRS by the same 3% per year for the next two cohorts. The BRS will be $93,000 for cohorts turning 55 in 2021, and $96,000 for those turning 55 in 2022. These modest continuing adjustments are necessary for the payouts to keep up with basic retirement expenses.
    3. With continuing wage growth, each successive cohort has been able to save more. We expect 7 in 10 actively employed persons from these two cohorts to be able to set aside their BRS, significantly more than the 4 in 10 about a decade ago.
    4. More details are in the Annex. [See Annex C-2.]
  36. Even as more seniors are prepared for retirement, one group of current seniors may not be able to meet their retirement needs.
    1. When they were younger, they earned less than working Singaporeans do today, even after adjusting for inflation.
    2. Some may have earned lower wages for most of their working lives.
    3. Others may have stopped working early to take care of family members.
    4. We are in a fortunate position that most of our seniors have housing assets that they can use to support their retirement, if they wish.
  37. We will do more to help Singaporeans tap their housing assets for retirement by enhancing the Silver Housing Bonus and the Lease Buyback Scheme.
    1. The Minister for National Development will provide more details.
  38. The CPF is a good retirement scheme, based on personal savings. It provides Singaporeans with very favourable, risk-free interest rates on their savings. Many Singaporeans want to top up their own, their spouse’s, or parents’ CPF accounts. In 2019, such voluntary cash top-ups added up to about $1 billion. We would like to encourage more to do so, particularly those whose CPF balances are on the low side.
  39. To help those with less CPF savings to save more, I will introduce a Matched Retirement Savings Scheme from 2021 to 2025.
    1. Lower- to middle-income Singaporeans aged 55 to 70 who have not been able to set aside the prevailing BRS will be eligible.
    2. Under this scheme, the Government will match every dollar of cash topup made to their CPF Retirement Account, up to an annual cap of $600. This is a way of encouraging and augmenting family support for our seniors with fewer means in retirement. About 435,000 Singaporeans will be eligible.
  40. While the CPF is a good scheme, for a small segment of the elderly population, it will not be enough. Some had low incomes during their working years, and currently have little or no family support. We created the Silver Support Scheme to complement the CPF for this group, and give them more financial security in retirement. The scheme is now almost five years old and a review is timely.
  41. Silver Support currently provides cash payouts to the bottom 20% of Singaporeans aged 65 and above, with some support for those slightly above the bottom 20%.
    1. I will raise the quarterly cash payouts by 20%. For individuals living in smaller flats, this means that the cash payouts will increase from $750 to $900 per quarter.
    2. I will also broaden the eligibility criteria of Silver Support. I will expand the threshold for lifetime wages and per capita household income to cover more seniors. There will also be a new payout tier to provide a smaller payout to seniors whose monthly household incomes per person are above $1,300 but not exceeding $1,800 – these seniors do not receive Silver Support today.
    3. There is no need to apply – eligible seniors will be notified by CPF Board and start receiving payouts under the enhanced scheme from December 2020.
  42. Overall, we expect about 100,000 more seniors to benefit from the enhanced Silver Support in 2021. The cost of Silver Support will nearly double, from today’s $330 million, to around $620 million in 2021.
    1. More details are provided in the Annex. [See Annex C-3.]
  43. Here is an illustration of how the matched savings, right-sizing, and enhanced Silver Support can add up to help a retired 65-year old couple to more than double their retirement income.
    1. I will pause here for members to take a look at the example. More details are provided in the Annex. [See Annex C-4.]
  44. These enhancements underscore the Government’s commitment to provide seniors with greater assurance in retirement, and reflect the values we hold dear, such as taking care of our parents and seniors. They will also complement the other schemes for our seniors, such as the Pioneer Generation Package and Merdeka Generation Package.
  45. We will also help seniors stay active and contribute to the community.
  46. Many senior volunteers find that volunteering gives them purpose, keeps them socially connected, and promotes active ageing. The community also benefits from their wealth of experience and skills.
    1. There is Mr Victor Lim, a 70-year-old retiree, who spent 40 years in the Medical Imaging and IT industry, and now volunteers at IMDA’s Digital Readiness programmes. There is also Mdm Leong Su Yin, one of the oldest members of RSVP, who has been volunteering for over 20 years.
  47. Strengthening the Giving Culture

  48. Our success in taking care of every Singaporean, from pre-school to retirement, is only possible with the support of our community partners.
  49. This brings me to the third strategy, Strengthening the Giving Culture.
    1. When we harness and rally greater participation and resources from the community, we can better support those in need.
  50. The Government will continue to support the community in building a stronger giving culture.
    1. Last year, I announced the Bicentennial Community Fund, which provides dollar-for-dollar matching for donations made to Institutions of a Public Character. This is on top of the 250% tax deduction provided for donations made to IPCs.
    2. One of the potential beneficiaries is the Daughters Of Tomorrow Limited, which helps disadvantaged women gain new skills and find employment. The organisation plans to use the Bicentennial Community Fund to develop staff and volunteers, and build their in-house fundraising capabilities.
    3. This year, the Ministry of Social and Family Development and National Council of Social Service will set up the Community Capability Trust to fundraise and support our social service sector partners in enhancing their capabilities and capacities to serve the community.
      1. For a start, together with Tote Board, we will provide $200 million to the trust in FY2020, and match up to $150 million in funds raised over the next 10 years. In total, we will commit up to $350 million for the Community Capability Trust.
      2. This will provide a pool of funds that our Social Service Agencies can tap on to transform themselves for the future. I hope they will make good use of this to strengthen their organisational capabilities, become more productive, and enhance their service infrastructure, in partnership with MSF and NCSS.
      3. Just like how our efforts in the Industry Transformation Maps have positioned our enterprises and economy for the future, the Community Capability Trust will equip Social Service Agencies to bring the social sector forward.
      4. More details are provided in the Annex. [See Annex C-5].
  51. There is much value to be gained when a community comes together in support of a cause.
    1. I am happy to see the success of the movements like The Purple Parade, The Purple Symphony, and Runninghour. These are ground-up initiatives that support inclusion and celebrate the abilities of persons with special needs, through activities like music and sport.
  52. Everyone can play a part to build an inclusive society from their hearts, in ways big and small.
  53. Many enterprises have also built inclusive workspaces for persons with disabilities, or PwDs.
  54. To support the employment of PwDs, the SEC and the ASEC schemes provide wage offsets for employers hiring Singaporean PwDs earning below $4,000 per month. At the last Budget, we extended the SEC and ASEC until end of 2020.
    1. We have received good feedback on the schemes in supporting PwD employment.
    2. In 2018, more than 5,700 employers hiring over 8,600 Singaporean PwDs benefited from SEC.
  55. This Budget, we will introduce the new Enabling Employment Credit, or EEC, to provide stronger support for employers of PwDs.
    1. The new EEC will replace the current SEC and ASEC schemes for PwD employment.
    2. It will be available for five years, from 2021 to 2025, at a cost of about $31 million per year. To ensure that the EEC remains helpful for PwDs to find employment and remain in the workforce, the Government will review the EEC after two years and make adjustments if necessary.
  56. This Budget, I will also top up three funds that provide targeted help for the elderly and the lower-income.
    1. I will provide top-ups of $750 million to the ElderCare Fund, $500 million to the ComCare Fund, and $200 million to the MediFund.
    2. These funds provide a safety net for the low-income, by helping them to meet their daily expenses and healthcare fees.
  57. Summary

  58. The respective Ministers will provide more details of the schemes I have mentioned in this section later.
  59. Mr Speaker Sir, Budget 2020 supports the Government’s long-term strategy of building a caring and inclusive society.
    1. We will continue to support our families, through the enhancements to our education and housing schemes, and the Care and Support Package for households.
    2. We will enable our seniors by promoting active ageing and providing financial assurance in their retirement years.
    3. We will also partner the community to build a stronger giving culture, so we can better support those in need.
    4. This is our continued effort to improve the lives of our people and our future generations. We must continue to work together to build a society where opportunities are available to every Singaporean, at every stage of life.