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Budget 2022 measures brought forward amid global rise in prices: Lawrence Wong

Finance Minister Lawrence Wong.
Finance Minister Lawrence Wong. (FILE PHOTO: Yahoo News Singapore)

SINGAPORE — Singapore will be bringing forward the implementation of its Budget 2022 measures to help households amid the global rise in prices, said Finance Minister Lawrence Wong on Monday (4 April).

In his ministerial statement on inflation and business costs in Parliament, Wong said that the $100 Community Development Council (CDC) vouchers for every Singaporean household will be given out by middle of May.

"This is on top of the $100 disbursed four months ago in December last year, and will help Singaporeans with their daily expenses," he said in his Parliament speech.

The first tranche of Service and Conservancy Charges (S&CC) rebates and U-Save rebates will also be disbursed to eligible households this month. The rest of the rebates will be disbursed in the coming quarters – in July and October this year, and in January 2023.

Wong has also assured the public that other forms of help for households - including top-ups to the Child Development Account, Edusave Account or Post-Secondary Education Account of every Singaporean child, the GST Voucher in terms of cash and Medisave top-ups - will disbursed in a timely manner.

Further help for lower-income households

For lower-income households who will be more impacted by the higher prices, Social Service Offices will provide a minimum six months’ support for all new ComCare Short- to Medium-Term Assistance (SMTA) clients who apply between April and September.

Households who are already on ComCare SMTA can also have their assistance extended for at least another three months if they require further assistance.

The COVID-19 Recovery Grant is in place until the end of this year, and will help lower- to middle-income households experiencing job losses or sustained income losses.

The government will also do another round of disbursements of Public Transport Vouchers for ComCare recipients this month. They will receive $60 of PTVs, which Wong said will roughly cover the additional fares paid by a family of four this year arising from the fare increase last December.

Lower-income persons with disabilities who require point-to-point services to commute can also apply for the Taxi Subsidy Scheme, which covers up to 80 per cent of their taxi fares.

Suspending fuel duties will have 'counterproductive' effects: Wong

For businesses, the government will bring forward the disbursement of the Small Business Recovery Grant, which provides up to $10,000 for SMEs most affected by COVID-19 restrictions over the past year. Most eligible businesses will be able to receive the grant by June.

However, Wong said that suggestions by some Members of Parliament to reduce or suspend fuel duties, or to provide road tax rebates, effectively amounts to a subsidy on private transport and will have counterproductive effects.

With only about one in 10 of the bottom 20 per cent of households owning cars, Wong said that such subsidies would benefit only a relatively small but generally better-off group.

Cutting fuel duties also means that some of the subsidies will flow back to producers and suppliers, as the pump price may not fall as much as the reduction in duty. Such subsidies will also reduce the incentive to switch to more energy-efficient modes of transport.

Government ready to provide more support if needed

Wong concluded his ministerial statement by assuring all Singaporeans that help from Budget 2022 is coming, and if the situation worsens and more support is needed, the government is ready to do so.

"After many years of relative price stability, the recent surge of higher inflation has understandably come as a shock to many," he said.

"We must not let this become a blame game – of government versus people, of sellers versus buyers, of hawkers versus consumers. Or worse, think that if Singapore were to lie low and remain silent on the war in Ukraine, we could somehow all enjoy lower pump prices today.

"What we are experiencing today in Singapore is the result of external forces that impact the entire global economy. We cannot do very much to change this, but what we can do is to continue to keep faith with one another."

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