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YESTERDAY IN PARLIAMENT: GST hike adds $990m to govt revenue so far

$1.17b budgeted to help S’poreans adjust to higher GST: Tharman

THE government collected an additional $990 million in tax revenue last year due to the higher Goods and Services Tax (GST) that kicked in on July 1, 2007.

Yesterday, Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam told parliament that about $540 million of the revenue was domestic, while the rest came from foreign consumers.

He was responding to questions about the added tax revenue from a 2 percentage point hike in GST levied from last July.

Of the sum, $630 million were subsequently paid out as GST credits over the same period, ‘including the bonus credits that were given to senior citizens’.

‘Overall, besides the GST credits, the government had budgeted to hand out $1.17 billion in fiscal 2007 to assist Singaporeans to adjust to the GST increase,’ said Mr Tharman.

He acknowledged that there were needy Singaporeans who did not sign up to receive the GST credits or senior citizens bonus, but added that efforts had been made to contact them.

‘We had repeated publicity as well as outreach efforts on the ground to reach out to these individuals,’ like posters in lift lobbies and customised flyers sent to those households, the minister explained.

Yesterday, the house also passed an amendment bill to the Workmen’s Compensation Act (WCA).

Under the amended bill, coverage under the WCA has now been expanded to include non-manual workers earning more than $1,600 a month, besides manual workers and non-manual workers earning $1,600 or less a month.

Also, the compensation limits have been raised due to wage increases since 1995 when the previous limits were set.

‘With this change, the minimum compensation for death and total permanent incapacity will be increased to $47,000 and $60,000 respectively,’ said Gan Kim Yong, Minister of State (Education and Manpower).

‘The maximum compensation will also be raised to $140,000 and $180,000 respectively.’

The other changes include streamlining the compensation process, flexibility in paying and distributing compensation.

To ensure that the WCA is effective, Mr Gan said penalties against errant employers and employees would also be raised accordingly.

‘For example, an employer who illegally deducts his employee’s salary to defray the cost of work injury compensation insurance may be fined up to $5,000 instead of $2,000, while the maximum jail term has been kept at six months.’

The Manpower Ministry said it would reach out to employees on their rights under the Act, and raise worker awareness of the available avenues for compensation.


Source: Business Times 23 Jan 08

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