Earlier today at 3:30pm, Finance Minister Mr Heng Swee Keat delivered the Singapore Budget 2019 statement, outlining the government’s spending priorities for the year.
For those of you who missed it, here are 4 major announcements that you probably want to know about.
#1 Bicentennial Bonus (Cash, Personal Income Tax Rebates, CPF Top-Ups, SC&C Rebates)
To celebrate and commemorate this significant milestone in Singapore’s history, $1.1 billion will be set aside for Singaporeans as part of the Bicentennial Bonus.
The cash component of the Bicentennial Bonus will be distributed in two main ways:
First, lower-income Singaporeans will receive up to $300 in GST Voucher – Cash (Bicentennial Payment)
Second, Singaporeans who received WorkFare Income Supplements in 2018 will receive an additional 10% as Workfare Bicentennial Bonus.
Singaporeans aged 50 to 64 who have less than $60,000 in their CPF accounts will receive a one-time CPF top-up of up to $1,000.
Students in primary or secondary school will receive $150 in Edusave top-ups, while those aged 17 to 20 will get up to $500 in their Post-Secondary Education Accounts (PSEA). This is to help parents as they support their children in doing their best in their studies.
All Singaporeans can enjoy 50% in personal income tax rebates for YA2019, subject to a cap of $200, which will ensure it benefits lower-income Singaporeans the most.
Alongside the Bicentennial Bonus cash and various top-ups, Singapore households will also enjoy an additional year of Service and Conservancy Charges (S&CC) rebates.
#2 Merdeka Generation Package
In last year’s National Day Rally 2018, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced the Merdeka Generation Package to thank the Merdeka Generation for their contributions and take care of them in their golden years, especially in the area of healthcare.
To recap, the Merdeka Generation is made up of Singaporeans born between the year 1950 to 1959, in other words, Singaporeans who are aged 60 to 69, as of 2019. According to the government, about are around 500,000 Singaporeans who belong to this generation.
Finance Minister Heng gave more details about what the Merdeka Generation can look forward to receiving. The package will primarily consist of five parts:
1) A one-time $100 PAssion Silver Card top-up, which they can use to participate in healthy lifestyle activities and programmes.
2) MediSave top-ups of $200 each year for five years, starting in 2019 and lasting until 2023.
3) Enhanced subsidies for outpatient treatment, for life, which includes special CHAS subsidies when visiting GPs and dentists, and an additional 25% off subsidised bills at Polyclinics and Specialist Outpatient Clinics (SOCs).
4) Additional MediShield Life premium subsidies, for life starting from 5% of premiums and steadily increasing to 10% after they reach 75 years of age.
5) More participation incentives of $1,500 to join CareShield Life when it becomes available for existing cohorts in 2021.
#3 Expansion Of CHAS Benefits
The Community Health Assist Scheme (CHAS) has been instrumental in helping to ease the patient load and waiting times at polyclinics and hospitals, while helping Singaporeans with the cost of non-critical illnesses.
Minister Heng announced that CHAS subsidies will be enhanced in 3 ways.
1) As announced in National Day Rally 2018, CHAS will now cover all Singaporeans with chronic conditions, regardless of income.
2) Lower to middle-income Singaporeans who are CHAS Orange cardholders will now receive subsidies for common illnesses. In the past, only CHAS Blue and Pioneer Generation members received such subsidies.
3) Increase in CHAS subsidies for those with complex chronic conditions.
During last year’s Budget, Minister Heng announced that there will be a planned increase of GST to 9%, though the government will continue to absorb GST on subsidised education and healthcare.
To help cushion the impact of the GST increase, the government has committed to enhancing the permanent GST Voucher scheme for lower-income households and the elderly as well as introducing a GST offset package, in which lower and middle income households will receive more.
With effect from tomorrow (19 February 2019), GST Import Reliefs for travellers will be tightened.
For travellers who spend less than 48 hours outside Singapore, the relief cap will be reduced from $150 to $100, while those who spend 48 hours or more outside of Singapore, the relief will be reduced from $600 to $500. This will likely affect those who go to Malaysia frequently for shopping.
In addition, alcohol duty-free concessions for travellers will be tightened from 3 litres to 2 litres from 1 April 2019.
Doing Our Part To Build A Stronger Singapore For All
Whether we like it or not, the income and quality of life we enjoy depends very much on whether Singapore is successful in navigating the rapidly changing global economy.
Minister Heng emphasises that these long-term, wide-ranging national goals cannot be achieved by the government alone. It requires the participation and support of all Singaporeans and companies to work hand-in-hand for a strong, united Singapore.
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