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Singaporeans expect ‘ang pow’ Budget 2015; want more medical benefits and other goodies

Will Singapore’s 50th birthday give rise to a Budget 2015 of generous proportions?

Locals whom Yahoo spoke to are anticipating a Chinese New Year red packet (or “ang pow”) from the government when the Budget statement is delivered in Parliament by Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance Tharman Shanmugaratnam on 23 February.

On account of the country’s jubilee occasion, they foresee cash handouts similar to those presented in 2011, where about 80 per cent of Singaporeans received S$500 to S$700 in Growth Dividends.

Also high on the wish-list for working professionals like trader Leonard Low are tax rebates on home loans.

The 27-year-old, engaged and planning for his wedding, is worried about the impending costs of his successful application for a HDB flat.

“Including furniture and renovations together with the cost of a Build-To-Order (BTO, it’s staggering,” said Low. “It doesn’t help that wedding banquets are getting more and more expensive each year.”

“With all these increasing costs, we might have to take on loans and installments, and end up spending our lives working to repay the debts,” he added.

Healthcare hot button

With housing costs taking a chunk out of Singaporeans’ income, some parents hope the government will assist with more inclusive policies – specifically in elderly medical care.

The Budget is slated to reveal details of a Silver Support scheme, first announced by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong during his National Day Rally speech last year. It will provide annual payouts to low-income elderly aged 65 and above.

“My biggest concern is medical costs,” said Anson Goh, 64. “We should have free medical after 65 years of age, for all… we don’t want to burden our children who already have to cope with expensive housing.”

Peggy Ong, 70, agreed, saying: “All Pioneers should be given free medical coverage, for serving this long.”

The issue also continues to be widely-debated on REACH Singapore’s pre-Budget discussion forum, with commenters calling for “blanket support, instead of trying to determine who needs what”.

Other than senior citizens, healthcare costs should be kept affordable for all Singaporeans, argued some locals on REACH’s website.

The government should also expand Medisave coverage, said one commenter, in a view echoed by Chen Baitao, 32.

“They should allow for more flexible use of Medisave... for more outpatient treatments, especially for low income groups,” the owner of a start-up told Yahoo.

Meanwhile, younger Singaporeans expressed desire for new policies around education and public transport.

"I hope that students from low income families will get more university subsidies,” said student Lyn Chua, 20. “And adults get more affordable transport fares, not just for off-peak hours."

RECAP SINGAPORE BUDGET 2014:

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