Policies to address inequality a focus at Budget debate
Social and economic inequality remained a major topic on the second day of Budget debate, with a majority of speakers addressing the issue.
Several members of parliament brought up social inequality as the main issue in Singapore, citing the issue as integral to ensuring the progress and cohesion of Singapore as a nation.
According to Workers' Party chairman Sylvia Lim (Aljunied GRC), the income disparity gap between the higher and lower income groups in Singapore remain bigger than many developed countries, even after governmental transfers.
Ms Lim said: "In 2017, the household income for the top 10 per cent is more than $13,000 per person per month, while that for the 20th per cent at the lower end is about $1,000 per person per month - 12 times more unequal."
She called for the Government to do a longitudinal study to better understand the impact of government policies on social mobility over time.
She, like several other MPs, proposed a review of specific policies to reduce inequality among the different income groups. Areas covered included education, taxes, healthcare and housing.
Ms Lim suggested a review of healthcare insurance schemes in Singapore to bridge the inequality in deductibles and co-payment between private insurance plans and MediShield Life for elderly and lower-income Singaporeans.
She said that MediShield Life, unlike private insurance policies, requires co-payment and deductibles to prevent overconsumption.
She said: "While the annual deductible for persons aged 80 and below is between $1,500 and $2,000, the annual deductible for those aged 81 and above is between $2,000 and $3,000.
"Thus, the most senior of our people aged 81 and above, who have the least income and most health problems, have to foot bills up to this higher deductible before MediShield Life will kick in."
This, she said, was on top of the higher premiums older people already have to pay.
Other policies suggested to curb the issue of inequality included Dr Intan Azura Mokhtar's (Ang Mo Kio GRC) suggestion that there is still room for an increase in personal and corporate income tax for the higher earners despite an increase made in 2017.
She cited examples such as Taiwan and Hong Kong, where tiered income tax could go as high as 40 per cent.
She suggested the possibility of income tax being progressive based on earnings. For instance, those with accessible incomes between $320,000 and $500,000 could be charged 22 per cent; 24 per cent for those who earned $500,000 to $1 million and 26 per cent for those with accessible incomes above $1 million.
Dr Intan also proposed a progressive corporate income tax rate, particularly for MNCs and large companies, increasing the flat 17 per cent for all companies to 17.5 per cent to 18 per cent for those companies bringing in anything above $1 billion a year.
She also suggested a tax on branded goods purchased online.