Workers' Party offering "dishonest and irresponsible" options: Heng
The Workers' Party's approach of suggesting "politically expedient options" for Singapore's financial plans is "dishonest and irresponsible", said Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat yesterday.
In his wrap-up speech of the three-day marathon Budget debate in Parliament, Mr Heng panned assistant secretary-general of WP Pritam Singh (Aljunied GRC) for adopting a "wait-and-see" stand to the recently-announced goods and services tax (GST) hike, instead of "taking a principled stand".
Mr Singh had on Tuesday told Parliament that the WP was "unable" to support the GST increase without clarity on how much the Government would earn from this increase, and what it planned to do with the money raised.
To this, Mr Heng said: "We estimate that it could yield additional revenue of about $90 million per year.
" But let us be clear that this is a move to defend our current revenue base from being eroded as more transactions move online."
Another reason Mr Singh earlier gave for not supporting the GST hike was insufficient information regarding the potential to tap on the reserves.
He had suggested using revenues from land sales and increasing the spending cap for the Net Investment Returns Contribution (NIRC).
The NIRC has more than doubled from $7 billion in FY2009 to an estimated $15.9 billion in FY2018, which makes it the Government's largest revenue source - more than any single tax.
Mr Heng retorted that this was not the right thing to do, despite how "tempting" and "relatively painless" these alternatives were to raising taxes.
He said: "We deliberately introduced rules on land sales and the 50 per cent NIRC cap so that we do not succumb to the temptation to draw more from our reserves to fund current expenditure or eat into the principal sum."
He later added: "It is easy to fall back on politically expedient options and pretend that they will solve our long-term challenges. But this is a dishonest and irresponsible approach."
Mr Singh said later that he disagreed with Mr Heng's assertion that these were "dishonest" suggestions, pointing out that NIRC was an increasing source of revenue.
To this, Mr Heng replied that it is precisely because the NIRC is "now the single largest source" of revenue that the Governments needs to diversify where it gets its money from.