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  Today Online 7 Nov 07
Budget 2008: What they want
Esther Fung

The New Paper 8 Nov 07
Mister, it's about Budget, not carpets
Most questions at yesterday's public feedback discussion on the Budget were well-thought out, but some were downright silly
By Low Ching Ling

Straits Times 7 Nov 07
Calls to include green incentives in Budget
By Tan Hui Yee

CONSERVING the environment, raising education standards and nurturing innovation were some of the issues raised last night at a public dialogue session held to prepare for next year's Budget.

More than 40 participants took part in the two-hour session at the National Library where they reeled off ideas on where government spending should be directed next year.

One frequent request was for the Government to offer more incentives or even impose penalties to nudge people towards more environmentally friendly or 'greener' lifestyles.

The chairman of environmental group Waterways Watch Society, Mr Eugene Heng, called for special tax credits to give people incentives to conserve the environment.

Other participants suggested levying higher taxes on firms that cause pollution, as well as making it cheaper for people to use electric cars instead of petrol-powered ones.

Another recurring call was to encourage innovation to keep the economy competitive. One participant urged the Government to reduce the number of scholarships it offered, to free up young talent for entrepreneurial activity. Another suggested spending more money to raise the quality of teachers.

Others, meanwhile, were more focused on the bread-and- butter issues. Ms Eveline How, 33, for example, raised her concern over impending means-testing for subsidised treatment at government hospitals. If she were to be hospitalised, she would choose to stay in C-class wards because they were the cheapest and would allow her to save money for old age, she said.

Last night's session was the first in a series of six dialogues to held in the coming weeks.

Dr Amy Khor, who heads the government feedback agency Reach and who chaired the session last night, told reporters she was surprised that participants did not ask for more 'goodies'.

'Surprisingly, nobody asked for more New Singapore Shares. I think it's because the economy is doing pretty well, and perhaps people's wages and bonuses are pretty reasonable.'

She said suggestions to have tax relief for people looking after aged parents or those with school-going children should be considered. Another suggestion to abolish estate duty is currently being looked at by the Ministry of Finance.

Today Online 7 Nov 07
Budget 2008: What they want
Esther Fung

IF A group of Singaporeans have their way, Budget 2008 would see more money being spent on fostering a spirit of innovation in schools and businesses; and on encouraging environmentally-sustainable practices.

For example, more taxes and penalties could be imposed on firms emitting pollutants, suggested some members of this group who were taking part in a dialogue session at the National Library last evening. The meeting, organised by Reach, the Government feedback unit, was the first in a series of six pre-budget public dialogue sessions.

About 60 people, including professionals, retirees, students and entrepreneurs, took part in the dialogue. The issues they raised ranged from healthcare and transport subsidies to employment aid and tax relief and environment-friendly practices.

Dr Amy Khor, who chaired the event, noted that contributors this time round brought up more "softer issues. They are concerned about promoting innovation in the education system, which is quite different from previous years where there were more calls to give goodies and assistance". Dr Khor is also Reach chairman.

There were more specific suggestions too like the perennial favourite, reductions in income tax, as well as abolishing estate duty tax so that Singapore can keep up with regional competition.

The New Paper 8 Nov 07
Mister, it's about Budget, not carpets
Most questions at yesterday's public feedback discussion on the Budget were well-thought out, but some were downright silly
By Low Ching Ling

IT was an opportunity for Singaporeans to give their two cents' worth about next year's Budget.

But some issues raised by the participants at yesterday's two-hour public dialogue session at the National Library had others scratching their heads. Like the auntie who called for TVMobile to be removed from buses.

Her logic - that it would make commuters miss their stops - had nothing to with transport fares or cost savings.

It was not even within the jurisdiction of the Government.

TVMobile is run by MediaCorp and installed on SBS Transit buses.


The dialogue was organised by the Ministry of Finance (MOF) and Reach, the Government's feedback unit. There were about 30 participants.

Then there was the uncle who praised the Government for using the Budget surplus to buy things like the Airbus A380 recently acquired by the Singapore Airlines (SIA).

Before him, someone had asked if the objective of the Budget was to have surpluses.

MOF's deputy secretary of policy Ng Wai Choong, who was part of the three-man panel, clarifed that the Government does not own SIA.

Another man, Mr Wong, pushed the green agenda in an unusual way.

'Let's get back to basics,' he said.

'God knows who invented air-conditioning and carpets. Why do we need carpets in our weather?

'If we use carpets, we need to use vacuum cleaners which consume energy.'

The other participants chuckled at his suggestion.

Mr Wong added: 'We live in an air-conditioned society. It's hurting the environment and the nights are getting warmer. Why can't we build higher ceilings?'

He also asked why the Government can't 'mix Channel 8 and 5' into one channel so viewers can be exposed to another language.

Dr Amy Khor, chairman of Reach, told reporters after the dialogue: 'We have a pretty diverse group of participants, from the man in the street to professionals, businessmen and students.

'The issues raised were very wide-ranging. But there were also many good suggestions raised.'

But surprise, surprise, bread-and-butter issues were not on the minds of the participants.

Yes, a few spoke about the GST hike, rising oil prices and inflation, but many were preoccupied with issues about the environment.


Civil servant Carol Loi, a mother of two, complained about bad air quality in the West.

A student from Hai Sing Catholic School, which had 13 students at the session, wanted to know if Singapore could develop alternative energy sources.

The school's principal suggested the Government explore the possibility of introducing hybrid cars.

His student wanted COE prices for such cars cut as they are more expensive than those that run on petrol.

Mr Wong wants a tree-planting campaign in the industrial estates.

Other items on the participants' Budget wishlist include abolishing estate duties, monetary incentives for stay-home mums and putting more money into developing a more innovative population.

Dr Khor said not many cost of living issues were raised because the economy was doing well.

Still, she 'thought people will ask for more goodies' precisely because of that.

Did environmental issues dominate the dialogue because Dr Khor is also the Senior Parliamentary Secretary for the Environment and Water Resources?

She didn't think so.

'Environmental issues are now top of the agenda of many people, including students... (because) there are so many articles in the press and shows.'

This week is also Clean and Green Week, and there were a few environmentalists among the participants, she added.

Related articles on Singapore: general environmental issues
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