Grace Fu asks Sylvia Lim to apologise, withdraw comment on GST hike

Leader of the House Grace Fu yesterday joined calls from government leaders for Workers' Party (WP) chairman Sylvia Lim to withdraw her comment on the timing of the goods and services tax (GST) hike and apologise to Parliament.

Ms Fu requested that this be done by Thursday, before the end of the ongoing Parliament sitting.

Meanwhile, the WP told The Straits Times that Ms Lim has asked Speaker of Parliament Tan Chuan-Jin for permission to make a statement on the matter.

As the House prepared to start on the debate over ministries' budgets yesterday, Ms Fu rose to speak on the issue, saying she wanted to put the facts on the record.

Ms Lim had said during last Thursday's Budget debate that it is her "suspicion" that the Government had intended to introduce a GST hike immediately but backed down after the "test balloons" it floated got a negative response.

She added that the Government was "stuck" when people noted Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam and other leaders had previously said it had enough money till the end of the decade.

Yesterday, Ms Fu, who is Minister for Culture, Community and Youth, noted that Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat and Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam had set out the facts surrounding the issue.

On Monday, Senior Minister of State for Law and Finance Indranee Rajah also wrote a Facebook post on the matter.

Ms Fu reiterated that the Government had been consistent on its position that it had enough to fund expenditure for the current term, but it would need to raise revenue beyond that for growing spending.

The first mention of the need for the tax increase was in the Prime Minister's National Day Rally speech in 2013.

"The Government never floated 'test balloons' on this matter," she said. "It has been deliberate and consistent in all its statements since August 2013."

Noting that Ms Lim had said that her comment was based on suspicion, Ms Fu asked Ms Lim to withdraw her comment now that the facts had been set out.