Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Budget 2015: NMP Chia Yong Yong cautions against 'leaning too much to the left'


MARCH 3, 2015

SINGAPORE – While Budget 2015 has been praised be some Members of Parliament (MPs) and observers as being left-leaning, Nominated MP Chia Yong Yong today (March 3) cautioned against an expenditure that leans too heavily to the left, leading to members in the House thumping their armrests in approval twice.

Speaking in Parliament during the debate on the Budget Speech, Ms Chia said: “We have in conclusion, a budget that is arguably very generous, and for which I am also very thankful. We have a budget that has been praised and approved as being leaning to the left.”

“But I would also argue that if we lean too much to the left, we will not have much left,” said Ms Chia.

While there has been a lot of discussion on collective responsibilities, Ms Chia, who is also the president of social service provider SPD, noted that it has to be viewed in context of personal responsibilities.

For instance, on the issue of more flexibility in the use of savings in the Central Provident Fund (CPF), she felt another taxpayer or the state would have to support an individual in their twilight years if they are not judicious in their personal spending.

“I have unease because I think we are placing (a) very great fiscal obligation upon our future generation, living off what our forefathers have built for us,” she added.

“When we talk about personal choice, choice always comes with responsibility. Benefits come with obligations, and when we exercise our personal choice, there is a price to be paid. And Madam, I submit that price should not be paid by someone else,” said Ms Chia in her concluding statement.

Earlier on during the debate, Workers’ Party chairperson Sylvia Lim said that this year’s as well as recent Budgets have called on a spirit of collective responsibility, as seen from the Silver Support scheme, MediShield Life and emphasis on social responsibility of high income earners with more progressive taxes.

She said the talk on strengthening social safety nets in this year’s Budget suggests a shift to the left, a direction she believes is right. A shift left is also important to mitigate Singapore’s income and wealth inequality, she added.

On sustaining such expenses, MP Jessica Tan (East Coast) said a key aspect of the Budget, underlying all the support schemes, was still about growth.

While previous budgets have focused on restructuring and productivity schemes to support businesses, Ms Tan said this year’s Budget is looking to companies to make more significant breakthroughs to drive productivity and improvements.

MP Liang Eng Hwa (Holland-Bukit Timah), who kicked off the debate, stressed the need to uphold fiscal discipline and fiscal sustainability. He suggested a regular review of fiscal sustainability, for spending schemes lasting more than 10 years.

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