Bishan GRC MP proposes National Defence Duty for foreigners

Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC member of parliament Hri Kumar Nair has proposed that all permanent residents (PRs) and foreigners pay a new National Defence Duty tax and have the money placed in a trust fund for men in National Service (NS).

In a Facebook note on Wednesday morning, Nair said this would help impose similar nation-building duties on such members of the public and address “a current imbalance” of this segment of the population fleeing the country without shouldering such responsibilities.

“In short, we do duty, they pay a duty. Since PRs and foreigners cannot contribute manpower to our SAF and Home Team, they make a financial contribution to the protection and preservation of their lives, families, jobs, investments and properties,” said Nair, who is a director at law firm Drew & Napier.

The 47-year-old noted in his Facebook post that PRs and foreigners should also shoulder the sacrifice of having an armed force. He said that conscripted men bear “significant economic cost” such as lagging behind females in university and work matters and not being able to support their families during conscription with “a modest allowance”.

Nair suggested the tax be exempted for sons of PRs who are in conscription, but he went one step further to address the problem of PRs not enrolling their sons for NS -- he proposed imposing back-taxes and penalties towards the sons’ parents, who decide to evade the suggested tax.

“When PR parents send their sons away before enlistment, it’s the son who is penalised in terms of not being able to return. I think this is too small a price to pay. More importantly, the decision would have been made by the parents. They should pay a cost for that decision,” said Nair.

NSmen to benefit

Nair also stressed the importance of having revenue earned from the National Defence Duty be channeled to benefit NS men directly, instead of landing on government reserves.

Nair, who was part of the Bishan GRC team that beat the Singapore People's Party at the 2011 general elections, also suggested multiple benefits for the trust fund. These include supplementing allowances of NSFs from poor families, compensating injured NS men or families of personnel killed in the line of duty, as well as a grant for NSmen towards financing their first home.

While Nair acknowledged taxation was not a foolproof way of solving such matters, he noted the contributions made by all types of residents would ensure that PRs and foreigners have “an opportunity to make a meaningful contribution towards the security they enjoy thanks to our NS men”.

He noted that his proposal was a workaround as opposed to trying to enroll PRs and foreigners for NS. Nair stressed that he does not intend to incite “xenophobia hysteria” with his proposal and is confident PRs and foreigners will not flee Singapore if and when the tax is implemented, due to low tax rates here.

Nair said he did not raise specific proposals towards tackling the population white paper as he “did not want them lost in the wider debate”. He pledged to raise this issue in the upcoming 10-day Budget debates in parliament.

The Singapore Budget will be unveiled on February 25.

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