In case you didn’t know, Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat just delivered his three-hour-long Budget 2019 statement.
Plenty of new sites have covered the various benefits and schemes announced but amidst the hubbub, we sat down and started thinking of the questions which will surely arise once people start learning more about Budget 2019.
And if you’re a young Singaporean, it really is in YOUR interest to pay attention to what was announced.
Why you ask? Because this is the first Budget led by the younger, fourth-generation (4G) ministerial cabinet. This also means that their decisions today are going to affect our lives in profound ways tomorrow.
Here are a couple of pertinent questions which should be on everyone’s minds after the Finance Minister’s statement.
TL;DR: 4 Questions On Everyone’s Minds After Budget 2019
After Budget 2019, there were many questions left unanswered. Here are some that should still be on everyone’s minds:
- Were the recent concerns over the safety of SAF addressed?
- Is it true that duty-free alcohol allowance will be cut?
- Is this an “Election Budget”?
- Seedly Special: What implications does Budget 2019 have for investors?
Read more about Seedly’s summary of Singapore Budget 2019.
Were The Recent Concerns Over The Safety Of SAF Addressed?
Besides stressing that “we must keep Singapore safe and secure”, Mr Heng focused on the need to innovate and build new capabilities in order to effectively counter cybersecurity threats.
He also echoed Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen’s announcement that Digital Defence will join the existing five pillars of Total Defence. And added that the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) will set up a Home Team Science & Technology Agency by the end of this year, to develop science and technology capabilities in order to support the Home Team’s operational needs.
Mr Heng also shared that the government will invest about S$22.7 billion, or 30 per cent of its total expenditure in Financial Year (FY) 2019, on defence, security, and diplomacy efforts.
Now, before you go, “Walao eh… Need more money to buy the new F-35 fighter jets is it?!”
A look at the Expenditure estimates for the Ministry of Defence reveals that the estimated military expenditure in FY2019 has been kept relatively constant with the revised expenditure for FY2018. There’s only a change of about $720 million, which is in pace with inflation rates of about 3 to 4 per cent increase each year.
It should also be noted that the majority of the total budget will go towards Education, Health, and Transport – all aspects which Singaporeans are greatly concerned about. Focus will also be given to economic development through programmes like Scale Up Singapore, which seeks to transform companies by helping them to scale up, and also the streamlining of existing schemes to make them more enterprise-centric.
Is It True That Duty-Free Alcohol Allowance Will Be Cut?
For now, a total of 3L of spirits, wine, and beer can be purchased in the following combinations:
Starting 1 April 2019 (and no, this is not an April Fools’ joke), your total allowance will be lowered to 2L, so here’re your options:
On top of this, the government is also reducing the value of allowable goods bought overseas that you can avoid paying GST on.
|Time Spent Outside Singapore||Value of Goods You Don't Have To Pay GST (currently)||Value of Goods You Don't Have To Pay GST (from 19 Feb 2019)|
|< 48 hours||$150||$100|
|> 48 hours||$600||$500|
This change applies to Singapore citizens, permanent residents and tourists. But is not applicable to crew members and holders of work permits, employment passes, student’s passes, dependent’s passes or long-term passes issued by the Singapore government.
Our analysis for this? Consider switching to water and not buying so much stuff. It’s better for your health and bank balance anyway…
Is This An “Election Budget”?
The next general election does not have to be held until April 2021, but with things like LTA suddenly announcing that they’re removing ERP charges from gantries and the fact that we’re celebrating our bicentennial this year. There’s inevitably an expectation that early polls may be called in 2019.
Our assessment? It’s hard to say.
For starters, the benefits announced aren’t exactly huge.
Take Mr Heng’s announcement of a “50% Personal Income Tax Rebate, subject to a cap of $200, for the Year of Assessment 2019” which should benefit mostly middle-income earners.
While any income tax relief is greatly appreciated, it’s nowhere as generous as Budget 2011’s Grow and Share package, where Singaporeans enjoyed a rebate of 20% for Year of Assessment 2011, capped at $2,000. Coincidentally, we had our General Election in 2011…
However, it’s worth noting that the Budget 2019 benefits are well spread out across the board. Besides announcements like Workfare Income Supplement and the extension of CHAS benefits to more Singaporeans. Here’s a quick look at what almost every Singaporean will get:
|A kid attending Primary or Secondary school||$150 top-up to your Edusave account|
|Between 17 to 20 years old (Poly and JC students)||$500 top up to your Post-Secondary Education Account|
|From the lower income bracket (not more than $28,000)||Up to $600 GST voucher|
|Between 50 to 64 years old and your CPF balance is < $60,000||$300 to $1,000 top-up|
|From the Merdeka Generation||- $100 top up to Passion Silver card
- Annual Medisave top-up of $200/year (2019 to 2023)
- 25% off subsidised bills at polyclinics and public specialist outpatient clinics
|Middle income earners||50% income tax rebate (capped at $200)|
So if the current Cabinet of ministers is trying to secure the hearts and minds of the average Singaporean, they are taking the right step by including (almost) everyone in this Budget 2019.
But more importantly, they’re also broadening and deepening Singapore’s social safety nets with $3.1 billion set aside for Long-Term Care Support fund and the starting of schemes like CareShield Life from 2020. The latter being an enhancement of the current ElderShield scheme which will provide lifetime coverage and a higher monthly payout of at least $600 a month for those who become severely disabled.
Seedly Special: What Implications Does Budget 2019 Have For Investors?
Here at Seedly, we know that we’ve got a couple of budding investors reading our stuff. So we put on our “investor’s thinking cap” and came up with some potential takeaways from Budget 2019:
|Measure(s) Announced||Good For|
|Support for ageing Singaporeans:|
- Increase health-care spending by more than 10%
- More affordable for citizens to visit clinics in the neighbourhood
- More than $200 million in CHAS subsidies
Raffles Medical Group (SGX: BSL)
Thomson Medical Group (SGX: A50)
|Measure(s) Announced||May Affect|
|Climate change related policies:|
- Carbon tax on this year’s emission
- Double excise duty for diesel tax
ComfortDelGro Corp (SGX: C52)
|Calibration of policies to reduce reliance on foreign workers||Service sector industries (like the retail trade) which are manpower intensive and rely on foreign labour to keep costs low:
BreadTalk Group Ltd (SGX: CTN)
Jumbo Group Ltd (SGX: 42R)
Koufu Group Ltd (SGX: VL6)
|Smaller duty-free alcohol allowance and reduction of GST relief for overseas shopping||Companies that engage in duty-free trading:
Duty Free International Ltd (SGX: 5SO)
Our Parting Thoughts About Budget 2019
So there you have it.
Budget 2019 shed a lot of light with regard to where taxpayers’ monies are going in FY2019. But at the same time, there are still some questions which were left unanswered. Hopefully, we’ll see some answered in the upcoming Committee of Supply Debate.
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