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Budget gets thumbs-up from older folk and young people

19 Feb 2019
Support for needy and Merdeka Generation, and plans to tackle climate change welcomed

Rei Kurohi

Fabian Koh

As part of the $1.1 billion Bicentennial Bonus announced by Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat yesterday, 1.4 million lower-income Singaporeans will receive up to $300 in GST Voucher cash payouts.

This is "very significant", said the National Council of Social Service president Anita Fam, who added that she was "heartened by the generosity" of the Budget.

Mr Heng also announced a $200 million Bicentennial Community Fund, which will match donations to Institutions of a Public Character (IPCs) dollar for dollar.

Ms Fam, a former lawyer, said she hopes this will spur Singaporeans to donate more.

"I am really hopeful that the dollar-for-dollar matching for donations to IPCs will incentivise giving, especially to social service agencies which are doing good but are finding resourcing a challenge."

In his speech, Mr Heng also outlined some of the benefits to those in the Merdeka Generation, including a one-off $100 top-up to their PAssion Silver cards and an annual $200 Medisave top-up until 2023.

Singaporeans born between Jan 1, 1950 and Dec 31, 1959 will also get additional subsidies for outpatient care and additional MediShield Life premium subsidies.

Retiree Karin Tan, who worked in sales in the industrial sector, is "very happy" with the package.

"I am currently already retired, and do not draw any income. This will help subsidise my medical costs," said Ms Tan, 64, who has high blood pressure and goes to the polyclinic every four months.

Mr Ameerali Abdeali, 68, head of a safety consultancy company, said that while the material benefits of the Merdeka Generation Package are attractive, it is the intangible aspect that is more important to him.

"I appreciate the recognition and validation that members of my generation are being given for our contributions to the country," he said.

Mr Ameerali, who has seven grand-nieces and grand-nephews, also praised the boosts that school-going children will receive.

There will be one-off top-ups of $150 for the Edusave accounts of Singaporean students aged seven to 16, and $500 for the Post Secondary Education accounts (PSEA) of students aged 17 to 20. The PSEA funds can be used to pay for fees in local polytechnics and universities, and also for skills-related upgrading courses.

Young people The Straits Times spoke to welcomed the announcement that the Government will invest in long-term plans to protect Singapore from the effects of global warming.

Mr Heng announced a carbon tax on this year's emissions and the Zero Waste Masterplan, to be launched in the second half of the year, which will focus on waste management and other issues.

But individuals must also change their way of life and adopt the 3Rs: reduce, reuse and recycle, he said.

Undergraduate Arjun Dhar agreed. "We are a city with the highest greenery density in the world, in which otters live in the middle of our central business district," said the 22-year-old, who is studying law.

"As we reflect on the Bicentennial, Singapore should also look to inculcate in all individuals a sense of care for the planet that nurtures us. This means replacing the idea that we are too small to make a difference with the idea that we each have a responsibility to try."

Miss Pamela Low, 24, a member of the Singapore Youth for Climate Action, said: "The Government eagerly investing in infrastructure to mitigate rising tides and sharing about it at the Budget shows the urgency of addressing the impact of climate change on the national agenda as it would become costlier in the future."

But she added that Singapore cannot simply rely on individuals to take voluntary actions, and that better policies are needed to help them understand the true costs of their actions on the environment.


Budget 2019 lays out this Government's approach to building a strong, united Singapore. We nurture our young, take care of our seniors, expand opportunities for our people to be at their best, and to live in a liveable, endearing home, secure and globally connected. Together, we can, and will, continue to take Singapore forward.