Straits Times: WP takes aim at income gap, GST hike

THE economy is growing but many workers still do not seem to be benefiting from it, said the Workers’ Party (WP) yesterday.

In its May Day message, the opposition party questioned whether the effects of “glowing economic charts and indicators” have trickled down to Singaporeans.

“Are Singaporeans indeed better off in their daily lives? How secure are our jobs and how secure are our children’s futures?” it said.

Last year, Singapore’s economy grew by 7.9 per cent, while a record 176,000 new jobs were created.

The party said that the incomes of many workers were not keeping pace with economic growth.

It expressed concern over the growing income gap “between the ruling elite and Singaporeans”.

The WP applauded the new Workfare Income Supplement scheme for low-wage workers. But it opposed the hike in the goods and services tax (GST) to justify funding Workfare. The GST is to rise from 5 to 7 per cent from July.

The party said the Government should have enough revenue as projected in the Budget to fund Workfare.

It also pointed out that in the past year, the cost of transport, hospital and polyclinic services has increased.

Bus and train fares went up by one to three cents last October, while some hospitals have raised their fees and charges for the first time in at least six years.

While it welcomed the Government’s review of the Central Provident Fund (CPF) investment schemes to get better returns, the party insists the CPF should be used only for workers’ retirement.

“The WP strongly believes that CPF should not be used as a tool to respond to economic downturns,” it said.

The CPF rates have also not been restored to pre-2003 levels, it added. In 2003, amid an economic slump, the employers’ monthly CPF contribution rate was cut from 16 per cent to 13 per cent.

But from July this year, the rate will be partially restored, to 14.5 per cent.

In its May Day message, the National Solidarity Party (NSP) lamented the high cost of living here.

The NSP was concerned that workers were not able to accumulate enough savings for retirement and blamed the Government for adding to their burden with “non-negotiable hikes” in, among others, the GST, property taxes and utility charges.

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