While Singapore had posted a sizeable budget surplus, all of it would be given back to the people in “different ways”, said Second Minister for Finance Lawrence Wong in Parliament on Tuesday (6 March).
“The entire surplus is given back to Singaporeans in different ways, not just the SG Bonus,” said Wong during his ministry’s Committee of Supply debate. He was responding to Nominated Member of Parliament (NMP) Azmoon Ahmad’s suggestion for the government to share more of the surplus.
Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat announced in his Budget 2018 speech last month that Singapore had a larger than expected budget surplus of $9.61 billion in the 2017 financial year, more than five times the official estimate of $1.91 billion. The additional S$7.7 billion above the estimate would be given back to Singaporeans, according to Wong.
Heng added that some 2.7 million people would receive a one-off SG Bonus sum of $100 to $300 by year-end, which would cost the government $700 million.
Wong said, “You have to look at the surplus in totality. We don’t save surpluses… Some will be for spending on future needs. Some will be for spending on current needs, like the ElderShield premiums, and some will be through a direct transfer, like the SG Bonus.”
He noted that $2 billion would be used for subsidies on ElderShield premiums and other related support once the scheme’s review is complete. Another $5 billion would be set aside for the Rail Infrastructure Fund used to build future MRT lines – a move that would “benefit all MRT commuters”, said Wong.
Beyond the SG Bonus, Wong noted there were other “social transfers” in the 2018 Budget, such as the GST Voucher, U-Save Rebate and Service and Conservancy Charges (S&CC) Rebate.
“In various areas like housing, healthcare, education and childcare, we have enhanced support provided by our permanent schemes over the years, with more assistance targeted at the lower-income (group),” he added.
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