The folks who gathered at Hong Lim Park made their views felt about the foreign hordes, but the businessmen will be casting the first stones. Overall, foreign workers now account for nearly 34 per cent of Singapore's total workforce. The cold turkey treatment will be rolled out to trim this presence.
In the construction and process sector, levies will be raised by $150 between July 2013 and July 2015. A higher levy of $300 will be imposed on workers hired outside a firm's Man-Year Entitlement (MYE). For the services sector, the overall Dependency Ratio Ceiling (DRC - maximum permitted ratio of foreign workers to the total workforce that a company is allowed to hire) will be cut from 45 per cent to 40 per cent.
For the lot whose salaries were depressed by them, the government will co-fund 40 per cent of wage increases for Singaporean workers earning up to a gross monthly wage of $4,000. To soothe the companies' ire, cash bonuses of up to $15,000 are available for investment in productivity. But the rich bosses will have more to moan about the higher property taxes and ARF hikes for their super duper cars.
The poor guys, as usual, are offered crumbs to soothe their pains. Another one time GST voucher to offset the on going regressive tax. The Government is planning to rake in $9.3 billion in 2013, more than the $8.8 billion collected in GST last year. Lower than corporate taxes ($12.9 bn), but more then personal income taxes ($7.6 bn). Retired, no fixed income? You die, your problem. The Government line, "a greater sense of security in their retirement years", is just another cruel joke.
Oh, Tharman said he personally topped up the Medifund capital sum by $1 billion. Thanks to Health Minister Gan Kim Yong's candour, we now know only the interest earned from this will be available for disbursement. The rest is reserved for god knows what.
But you can bet the $12.3 bn earmarked for Defence will be fully expended. We are not talking about free netbooks or iPads for NSmen during BMT, those folks are eyeing top of the range military toys like the controversial F-35 fighter jet (currently grounded after an engine crack was found). For all the talk about strengthening the Singapore core, Education is allotted only $11.6 bn, second largest slice of the $53.4 bn Budget 2013 pie. The three school-level initiatives (Early Childhood Development Agency, Opportunity Fund, Edusave Endowment Fund top up) will cost an additional S$120 million a year. The price tag of one F-35 is estimated at US$160 million.
Vaunted as "A Budget for Quality Growth", one suspects only the unhappiness index will be growing. Watch out for a reprise of Goh Chok Tong's "net happiness" argument.