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BUDGET 2008: THE DAY AFTER – Goodies for many, a tinge of regret for some

The disabled as well as single working women benefited less from this year’s Budget

STROKE patient Jason Yap will receive about $750 in total from the Government this year, from growth dividends announced yesterday and goods and service tax (GST) rebates announced last year.

Yet the good news has come with a tinge of regret.

There was, again, nothing specific in the Budget targeted at the disabled.

Along with single working women, they represent a small number of groups in society that have consistently received smaller hongbao come Budget time.

‘It seems like the disabled are classified as an invisible lot,’ said Mr Yap, 43, a former human resource executive, yesterday. ‘But we need to survive as well.’

The articulate Bedok resident, who has a bachelor’s degree from Britain, was paralysed by a stroke at age 36.

Unable to work and with his savings virtually wiped out by medical bills, he lives with his elderly parents in a three-room flat.

The family survives largely on the $230 he gets from the South East Community Development Council and the $500 or so the older Mr Yap makes as an odd-job worker at the airport.

Holland-Bukit Timah GRC MP Liang Eng Hwa, who has spoken about help for the disabled before, said that there was no ‘direct assistance’ for the disabled community and that they could be made eligible for help from several social and medical assistance funds that have been topped up by the Government as part of the Budget.

These include the ComCare fund, Medifund and funds that voluntary welfare organisations can tap.

About $200 million will be pumped into the ComCare fund alone. This fund is the primary source sustaining the Government’s social assistance schemes.

But the disabled are not the only group that may feel slightly short- changed by this year’s Budget.

Single working women who do not earn enough to pay tax also did not get much.

They already do not qualify for the NSmen bonuses given to most male Singaporeans.

But this year, they also missed out on the benefits of a 20 per cent income tax rebate, which higher-income workers received.

Customer service officer Faizah Salleh, 23, for instance, will get $500 in her Budget hongbao this year, which is less than half of what an elderly woman living in a one-room flat can get.

But she said that she did not mind both her smaller hongbao and the fact that her father or brother would get more since they had served NS.

What has left her a little disappointed is the fact that, because her family of eight lives in a five-room flat, they received around $750 less than what they would have got had they lived in a smaller unit.

‘Because our family is so big, it’s difficult for us to downgrade,’ said Ms Faizah, who lives with her parents, sister-in-law and four siblings. ‘It would be good if the Government considered family size as well while giving assistance.’

Jurong GRC MP Halimah Yacob conceded that there was ‘some basis for concern’ in Ms Faizah’s argument.

Housing type, she said, was the ‘easiest proxy indicator’ of a person’s economic status. ‘But we also know that there are many large families that live in five-room flats out of necessity,’ said Madam Halimah.

‘It would be good if per capita income could also be taken into consideration in any future distribution of surpluses.’

Another group that did not receive much in terms of relief were the top income earners, since a muchanticipated cut in income tax rates did not materialise and the tax rebate was capped at $2,000 per person.

But most felt that this elite group did not need the money, since they were key beneficiaries of substantial wage increments and bonuses paid out last year.

 

Source: The Sunday Times 17 Feb 08

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