SingaporeScene

GST ensures a fair tax system: Tharman

DPM Tharman Shanmugaratnam explains that the Budget’s new permanent GST voucher allows people to further understand that this is a clear fair tax system. (AFP photo)DPM Tharman Shanmugaratnam explains that the Budget's new permanent GST voucher allows people to further understand …

Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam said on Friday that the purpose of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) was to ensure that "the tax system is fair".

Speaking at a Channel NewsAsia forum on Friday evening with panelists from different segments, the minister explained that "most of the taxes are paid by those who are better off and the benefits are received by those less well off."

Referring to the new permanent GST voucher introduced in this year's Budget, Tharman said it was meant to "help them (lower income families) to bear daily and medical cost, quite apart from topping up their income through workfare and improving the subsidies".

The voucher will fully offset the 7 per cent GST that the lower half of retiree households pay on their expenses. The GST voucher will come in the form of cash, U-Save and Medisave top-ups.

In the last five years, the voucher had been done on a temporary basis "so people can see it with their own eyes and they get to understand the whole nature of the tax system that this is a clear fair tax system — I'm getting something back if I'm poor,"  said Tharman.

"If I'm rich, you don't get anything back because your job is to pay some taxes for the betterment of society, that's the logic behind it."

Panelists at the forum also shared their concerns on whether our society cared enough for the elderly, among other issues discussed.

"I wanted to make sure that people don't get away thinking the only reason that we want the elderly to be well is so that they can work," said Ren Ci Hospital's chief executive Loh Shu Ching, before adding, "We shouldn't define people by how productive they are."

"When we talk about a sense of purpose for the elderly, it could just be ageing actively, doing other things apart from working, contributing to the society in other ways rather than making money… you can age gracefully and age with dignity even by just taking care of your grandchildren."

"While we need to enhance the SMEs and… look at the CPF contributions so that the elderly can come back to work productively, we need to balance it with what the social sector (can) do in order to enrich the lives of the elderly," agreed Moliah Hashim, Mendaki's chief executive officer.

"So not only for productivity, but provisions for active ageing, happy living, that is my concern within the social sector."

While highlighting that the points on active ageing made by both Loh and Hashim were "very important", Tharman presented an alternative view — if a respected worker enjoys what he is doing, he becomes more productive — a win-win for himself and the government.

"If you respect the worker, the worker will respect the job, that's one point," he said, before adding that "if you want people to feel happy about themselves and to have the right mental balance (and) positive attitude towards life, they got to stay active."

"There's a way in which when people are respected and people enjoy themselves, they end up being more productive. It's in the nature of human behavior," added the minister.

"And I think we'll be surprised by how productive our elderly Singaporeans can be, and even how much they can mult-itask," he said.

Turning his attention to the future, Tharman said he wanted Singaporeans to have a better standard of living and higher incomes. For local enterprises, they should flourish, stay competitive and vibrant.

Beyond that, Tharman added that Singapore should become a compassionate society where "everyone is interested in each other and is interested in each other's welfare."

To get there, Singapore at large needs to do three things, he said.

"We need to place a lot more emphasis on firstly, training all workers. That is the responsibility of the enterprise and the government will pay the full share so much so that for SMEs, under our new schemes, the government pays virtually hundred per cent the cost of the training," the minister said.

"Secondly, we've got to respect the worker and respect every job. Every job is worth doing and if you go to the most developed societies, you will find that most blue-collar jobs are highly esteemed jobs," he added.

"Thirdly, we have to have a sense of responsibility for ourselves. You've got to work hard, not just because you're waiting for your pay but because you want to do the best job possible. I think that's the spirit we got to maintain and, in some respects, got to recover from the past and it will do us well," said Tharman.

-- Additional reporting by Fann Sim

Related Links:

Budget 2012 round-up: Singapore to reduce foreign worker inflow

New foreign labour curbs to make bad situation worse: SMEs on Budget

Budget 2012: CPF contribution rates raised for older S'porean workers

  • Photo of a very thin Lee Kuan Yew sparks concern
    Photo of a very thin Lee Kuan Yew sparks concern

    A new picture of Singapore's first prime minister, Lee Kuan Yew, who is now 90 years old, has drawn concern from people on Singapore's internet space.

  • Waste oil collector struggles after STOMP posts, receives help from kind souls
    Waste oil collector struggles after STOMP posts, receives help from kind souls

    After being photographed at work in Jurong pooling used oil near coffee shops, 50-year-old Valerie Sim has been struggling to keep her family afloat. Web portals STOMP and The Real Singapore published pictures of her in February, triggering a witch hunt for others like her and comments from readers like “Who knows if they’ll use it as cooking oil?” Some readers also said they filed police reports against her and other people they believed were doing the same thing she was.

  • I tendered my resignation without securing the next job. Here’s why I don’t mind.
    I tendered my resignation without securing the next job. Here’s why I don’t mind.

    I have committed a taboo – I have tendered my resignation without securing the next job. The reactions to the announcement were varied but they all pretty much hint at a deep sense of disapproval. “Why did you do that?” It was as if I had renounced my faith. “What are you going to do from now on?” Almost as though a misfortune had incapacitated me. “What does your family have to say about it?” As if I had offered to cook for the next family dinner. I was, and still am, certain of my reasons and motivations for the resignation. However the response I received got me thinking about why people are so concerned about the gaps in their careers. The developed world evolved from an agricultural economy to an industrial economy to the service age, then to the knowledge economy in the late 1990s and 2000s marked by breakthroughs in technological innovations and competition for innovation with new products and processes that develop from the research community. According to The Work Foundation, the knowledge economy is driven by the demand for higher value added goods and services created by more sophisticated, more discerning, and better educated consumers and ... The post I tendered my resignation without securing the next job. Here’s why I don’t mind. appeared first on Vulcan Post.