Let's debate GST in Parliament: Minister Heng Swee Keat
PUBLISHED ON 01 Mar 2018
Minister Heng Swee Keat had said that it was 'dishonest and irresponsible’ of the Workers’ Party (WP) to propose 'politically expedient options' that would not solve Singapore's longer-term budget.

Instead of calling the GST hike as a distraction and waiting for the elections to capitalise on the GST hike, Mr Heng also called on WP to debate serious issues affecting the nation in parliament as elected members. 

He also urged the WP to 'come clean' when making their suggestions on government spending. He added, "The Worker's Party should come clean to the people. Do they want to Government to increase healthcare or social spending? If yes, how do they propose to pay for the increase?"

"It is easy to ask for more, but not one of the (WP) MPs, except Mr Pritam Singh, even mentioned what it would cost nor how to fund it," said Mr Heng.

In his budget round-up speech, Mr Heng pointed out that the alternative suggestions by WP Member of Parliament Mr Singh of considering using land sales to boost revenue were not viable alternatives to raising Goods and Services Tax (GST). Mr Singh had also suggested increasing the tax collected from those who are self-employed. Mr Heng said: "He (Mr Pritam Singh) even suggested that through our Smart Nation efforts, we can increase tax collection from self-employed hawkers and taxi-drivers. Mr Singh cannot be serious,” said Mr Heng.

"Any serious-minded person will appreciate that not one of these (suggestions) is a viable alternative to a GST increase. They are distractions," said Mr Heng.

While there have been suggestions and proposals for more to be done by the Government including in areas of healthcare and social spending, the WP had not asked to cut back on any specific item, and neither did the Workers Party propose how to pay for the increase? Noting WP's lack of support for the Budget and GST hike, Mr Heng stressed, "If we were to do this, future generations of Singaporeans could easily end up in serious deficit."

 “So, I am glad that Mr Low Thia Khiang (who is not here today) appreciates our longer-term challenges, and the significance in positioning Singapore as a Global Asian node.”

But Mr Heng expressed puzzlement that Mr Low had characterised the GST debate as a distraction, and that he would rather debate this at election rallies. “Now the Workers Party’s MPs had been elected into parliament. You are sitting in Parliament! Parliament is exactly the place to debate serious issues affecting our nation’s future.”

Mr Heng hoped that "when the elections come around, (Mr Low) will not turn around and use the GST to distract people from the longer-term issues that we face."

All eight WP MPs, present in Parliament, voted 'No' to the Budget.