Singapore Budget Debate: Housing, ministerial pay and sectoral boosts

Published Tue, Mar 10, 2015 · 11:31 AM
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Members of Parliament debated a wide-ranging set of issues on Tuesday, as they heard from the Ministry of Communications and Information, the Prime Minister's Office, the Ministry of Law and the Ministry of National Development.

Minister for National Development Khaw Boon Wan told Parliament that the government wants a "soft landing" for Singapore's housing market, in response to suggestions that the Additional Buyer's Stamp Duty be adjusted, especially for Singaporean buyers.

"The property market is in transition and it is a time that calls for vigilance and nimbleness. We will be careful," Mr Khaw said.

He noted that the government's efforts in taming the housing market has seen results. Between 2009 and 2014, HDB resale prices eased to 37 per cent above the 2009 level after peaking in 2013, but median household income caught up during the same period, rising by 38 per cent.

The Construction Productivity and Capability Fund, launched in 2010, will also get a boost with an additional S$450 million in funding over the next three years, Senior Minister of State Lee Yi Shyan said.

On Tuesday, Members of Parliament also heard that political salaries have not increased in the last three years. According to Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean, this is because of the moderate changes in the benchmark - to which the salaries are pegged - which has increased by 3 per cent annually over the three years that the pay formula has been in operation.

"As Members have agreed, we must continue to keep wages in the public service realistic, and strike the right balance between recognising the ethos of political service and providing a fair salary, to ensure a flow of able and committed leaders into government," Mr Teo said.

On the legal front, Law Minister K Shanmugam told Parliament that the justice system will be refined to protect families, and that the government will try and ensure that the common man has access to justice. He also said that the government is taking steps to help Singapore law practices grow regionally, especially in the areas of court-based litigation and international mediation.

In other areas, more measures to boost public service broadcasting and the creative sector were also announced. The government will spend S$250 million a year over the next five years on Public Service Broadcast programmes in a bid to ensure more compelling and engaging local content.

At the same time, the Media Development Authority of Singapore is looking at developing a Creators' Space for Singapore's digital film and video sectors, Yaacob Ibrahim, Minister for Communications and Information and Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs, said in Parliament on Tuesday. This space will help to increase collaborations within the community, Dr Yaacob added.

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