BUDGET 2017 is about YOUR budget getting tighter

Feb 20, 2017 09.00PM |

by Bertha Henson

I WONDER who writes Finance Minister Mr Heng Swee Keat’s speeches? It must be the same person who wrote the Committee for the Future Economy report because the Budget speech was full of “developing capabilities”, “innovation”, “internationalisation” and “digitilisation”. So here’s all you need to know about Budget 2017 – and some things to ponder:


1. WATER ^&R$$$&&&&###!!!!

Yup, water prices are going up – by quite a hefty 30 per cent. That means your household water bill will go up by up to $18 a month. Again, we’re told that it’s because of higher cost of desalination and NEWater, which industries will now have a new NEWater tax to pay. It’s a two-stage increase, this July and next July. Yup, it’s like the rise in Service and Conservancy Charges (S&CC) in People’s Action Party (PAP) wards, which will also kick in in two stages.

Maybe the Ministry of Environment and Water Resources will shed some light on how the cost of water production is calculated. Are you looking at your water bill yet? Can reduce water usage by 30 per cent?


2. THANKS but what will S&CC fees be?

Even if you can’t think about rationing water, there’s some respite for you, especially if you live in smaller flats. U-Save rebates will cover the water bill increase fully or partially. There are also S&CC rebates, again tailored to housing type. Nice, except that the PAP town councils haven’t announced the quantum of S&CC increase yet.

Doubtless, those in bigger flats will be kicking up a fuss about paying more from the middle of the year. Expect to hear more about the sandwich class who is neither rich nor poor.


3. DON’T pass it down…

A carbon tax will be put in place from 2019. This concerns industries rather than households; that is, power stations and such like. It’s between $10 and $20 per tonne of greenhouse gas emissions. Nothing was said, however, about the big boys passing the cost down to electricity users.

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4. GET a greener, cleaner car

Still, you can do your green part and save some money if you drive a “cleaner” vehicle than the polluter you now own, because incentives have been extended. So ditch the car and keep the money in case your utilities bill suddenly spikes…


5. BUT think twice about getting a fancy bike

Everybody who has been speculating about changes to Certificates of Entitlement (COEs) for cars and restrictions on private-hire car companies has got it wrong. It seems some people have been indulging in expensive motorbikes which have an Open Market Value (OMV) of more than $5,000. Every bike buyer will still pay an Additional Registration Fee (ARF) of 15 per cent of the OMV. Yet, if you’re eyeing a new motorbike with an OMV of more than $10,000, please note that the ARF will be set at 100 per cent of the OMV. Why, you ask? Since it doesn’t occupy more space than an ordinary bike? It’s not about road usage. It’s about making sure those who can afford to, pay more in taxes.


6. CARING for care-givers

If you’re thinking more social safety nets will be available, you’re out of luck unless you’re caring for disabled family members, dementia sufferers or those with mental health problems. More money is being poured into these areas in an effort to build an inclusive society. You’ll have to wait for details from the different ministries in charge.


7. $50 MILLION X 3 for sports

For those who have been grumbling about being unable to play football in your neighbourhood because there’s no field for hire, the G is expanding its Sports-in-Precinct Programme. Some $50 million has been set aside to promote community sports. Another same sum of money, spread over three years, will go towards building more Joseph Schoolings. And finally, the third same sum of money will be forked out by the G to match sports donations dollar-for-dollar. May the sports associations use the money well. Keep your fingers crossed.


8. RELIEF for businesses

If you’re running a business, the cap for Corporate Income Tax (CIT) Rebate has been raised from $20,000 to $25,000 for 2017. If you’re in the marine or shipping line, there’s no increase in foreign worker levy as announced. (No surprise since there isn’t much work to go around in this sector.) But if you’re in construction, you’ll definitely get more work because $700 million worth of infrastructure projects have been pushed forward to this year and next. Nothing comes free, however, and the foreign workers levy for construction will go up.


9. TRAIN yourself into a “future” job

There was nothing specific for those who have lost their jobs but there will be more on training. An “Attach and Train” scheme will be announced for sectors which have good growth prospects, but where companies aren’t ready to hire yet. Instead, industry partners can send people for training and work attachments. So it looks like you’ll get training on the G’s dime but you might not be guaranteed a job right after.


10. GET ready for more taxes

Mr Heng got pretty sombre as he reached the end of the speech to talk about the “sustainability of the fiscal system”. That is, do we have enough money to pay for what we will need in the future? Healthcare spending has doubled to $10 billion last year over the past five years. Then there’s the more-than-$20 billion investment in transport infrastructure in the next five years.

All ministries and G agencies have to adjust their budgets downwards by 2 per cent. Besides scrimping, we’ve got to get more money somehow, somewhere. How? He said countries have been re-looking at their GST systems to make sure local GST-registered companies don’t lose out to foreign-based ones, especially those which do a lot of business locally. So maybe the tax axe will NOT fall on us so soon…


Featured Image by Wikimedia Commons user Sengkang. (CC BY-SA 3.0)

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