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In his 2015 Budget, Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam has shifted the Government towards a less extreme elitist position.$CUT$
Two initiatives bear this out: The raising of taxes on the top 5% income earners and the Silver Support Scheme where quarterly hand-outs are given to senior citizens who are unable to support themselves.
It is important to note, however, that these measures are not a result of a change of PAP’s ideology. For decades, the Government has constructed an elitist system that has benefited the rich while stingeing on the rest of Singapore. This has not changed.
But because elections are not far away, the PAP needs to stem erosion of its support which has accelerated in recent years. Hence, Budget 2015.
The SDP has made it plain that we will be campaigning on our policies at the next elections, among which are the raising of taxes on the super-rich (top 1% earners) to pay for social programmes such as financial asistance for the elderly poor.
We have, through the years, repeated these ideas in our manifesto It’s About You (2010), in our Shadow Budgets (2011, 2012 and 2013) and, most recently, in our economic policy A New Economic Vision: Toward Innovation, Equal Opportunity and Compassion (2015).
Singaporeans must note that it is the sustained push by the SDP for a more compassionate, less elitist system that the PAP now feels compelled to adopt its present stance. It is not a coincidence that this Government remained obstinate for 50 years, relenting only when the social media exposed the economic injustice of its policies.
The people must also beware that while the Government makes these concessions before the elections, it can always make the money back after the next GE through a myriad of taxes, fees and levies.
In the meantime, the ruling party continues to ignore the critical issues such as minimum wage, universal healthcare and retention of our CPF savings.
The SDP welcomes the measures made in the latest Budget to aid the poor and the weak. But Singapore is still far from a fair and sustainable system where prosperity and progress visits all Singaporeans, not just those at the top.
To ensure that the PAP does not take back what it has returned to the people and that it pursues policies that benefit the middle- and lower-income groups, it is imperative that Singaporeans support the SDP at the next elections.
This Budget is a clear demonstration of how a competent, constructive and compassionate opposition like the SDP benefits Singaporeans.