The headlines scream "$6.6 billion bonanza" for households in the various forms of cash handouts, tax rebates and top-ups to help them battle the tsunami of rising costs waiting round the corner.
What they don't put on the front pages is that Minister Teo Chee Hean is getting 5.4% extra for his Defence budget, a $620 million jump to $12.05 billion. That should explain his earlier cautionary advice that people should not set their expectations too high for the election budget goodies. The allocation for Health is cut by $24 million to $2.6 billion in the revised 2011 budget. Please, please, don't get sick - your TV licence rebate of $110 is barely enough for the A & E admission charges at the nearest public hospital. Transport budget is down by $585 million, a 12.6% reduction to $4 billion. How do you think Minister Raymond Lim will make up for the shortfall - other than the traditional bus/train fare hikes, ERP charges, etc? We don't want to know either. For the rest of the sobering numbers, download this pdf file (before it's deleted).
Madam Ong, 80, should be pleased. Her public assistance payout has been increased from $360 to $400 (kudos to MP Lily Neo for her tireless efforts). But philanthropist Wee Lin and founder of charity Sunlove Abode fears for her lot, "the payouts might not be sufficient if other living costs, such as electricity prices, continue to rise." The electrical tariff was hiked 3.3% for the first quarter, as oil price hurdled towards $100 a barrel. As for "more financial support of young families", executive assistant Valerie and mother of three kids has this to say about the $300 from the new Child Development Credit Scheme, "The amount is not even enough for what we spend in one month."
Why the big disconnect? Maybe it has to do with the $1 billion that Mah Bow Tan splurged for an air-conditioned botanic gardens, exceeding the original budget of $893 million without a whimper of protest from paliamentary members. So it's less than Balakrishnan's $200+ million YOG cost overrun, which happens to be close to what the Government claims is the cost of U-Save rebates for 800,000 HDB households. Or that $11.6 million is set aside yearly just to maintain the office of the President of the Republic of Singapore - refer to aforementioned pdf file.
A wise aunt has this timeless advice: if you are going to give someone a present, make sure it's something of value. Nobody appreciates receiving a Happy Meal toy packaged in a new wrapper.