Our writer, Yan An, went on the ground and spoke with a few Singaporeans on how the Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam’s Budget Speech measure up to Singaporeans’ expectations.
While the Pioneer Generation Package introduced additional healthcare subsidies and Medisave top-ups for Singaporeans aged 16 and older in 1965, concerns still remain over long-term healthcare costs and access, especially for those who will soon be entering old age.
Tan Chin Kong, 60, who will not be eligible for the Pioneer Generation Package, expressed his wishes that the government increase spending on healthcare in general, to “make long-term care more affordable and accessible”. Additionally, he thought the government should “improve the current medical insurance plans to cover more areas”.
23-year-old Industrial Relations Officer Carolyn Poon’s biggest Budget wish was also for increased healthcare coverage, particularly for the “poor elderly”. “It’s not just about MediShield,” she said, “we need to give greater priority to the whole range of eldercare services, from rehabilitation centres to hospices.” Ms Poon also indicated her wishes for “subsidised treatment for prevalent problems” such as leg and back issues, and for additional spending in technologies that would improve accessibility for the elderly. Ms. Poon also notes lobbying by NTUC’s Deputy Secretary General Heng Chee How in lobbying the Government in getting its wish list through.
Others had their eye on business. Mr Tan, 36, who owns an SME, articulated his concerns about the costs of business for SMEs, urging the government to give more assistance to small local companies like his. “The cost of doing business in Singapore and the tight labour market makes operating businesses here difficult. For SMEs, improving productivity may be more challenging than for larger firms.” Mr Tan emphasised the need to “rein in escalating rentals from institutional landlords” in order to do so.
For Economics student Chen Enjiao, 25, increasing spending on “human capital investments” to produce a “more competitive local workforce” was her greatest wish. According to her, “the competition is global and we need our people to take on better jobs or even start their own businesses, for which a little more skills training can’t hurt.”
Meanwhile, Saiful Saleem, 24, who begins his PhD programme in French this year, wanted “much more” to be allocated to improving the education system “at both the university and pre-university levels”, specifically by paying teachers more and enhancing the curriculum. He added, “it’s bizarre that a country like Singapore would spend more on its military than on education.”