Budget 2023 checks all our boxes. Here’s why

The Budget delivery is probably one of those rare times when even the most politically apathetic amongst us would show a cursory interest towards politics. 

So, did Deputy Prime Minister (DPM) and Minister for Finance Lawrence Wong deliver the Valentine’s Day present he promised

Well, not to sound biased, but he certainly did. 

This year’s Budget is definitely an ambitious one that balances the need for fiscal conservatism with social justice. 

It is a S$104 billion game plan aimed at confronting post-Covid realities to strengthen our social compact and build a resilient nation. 

And unless one is a compulsive smoker with plans to buy a luxury freehold condominium and a Ferrari, Budget 2023 has managed to achieve the Holy Grail of catering to just about everyone. 

It provides the assurance Singapore needs

With unrelenting inflation and another GST hike on the way, the rising cost of living is now at the top of our minds, a niggling issue that refuses to defuse itself. 

We expected the Budget to throw us a lifebuoy to keep us afloat in these choppy waters. And thankfully, it did. 

Within minutes, DPM Wong dived right into the subject and provided us with the assurance we seek in the form of an enhanced Assurance Package (beefed up by a staggering $3 billion) to tide us through this period. 

We cheered. Because other than cash payouts of up to $1,700, we can also look forward to additional CDC vouchers in 2024 and a doubling of U-Save rebates. 

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In addition, the Budget also included an unprecedented suite of measures to help couples bring down the cost of starting a family and raising children. 

It is no secret that the PAP Government keeps welfare dependency at an arm’s length, preferring to encourage individual and community resilience. 

But as it has demonstrated over the pandemic years through multiple support packages for Singaporeans, this is a Government who does not think twice about extending help to Singaporeans, especially the most vulnerable of us. 

Today, the generous and comprehensive nature of the enhanced Assurance Package shows that this Government has chosen to do right by its people.

It marks a bold attempt to tackle inequality

However, what makes Budget 2023 truly laudable is how it has highlighted the resolve of the PAP Government to tackle inequality by playing Robin Hood. 

To ensure that our wealthiest citizens contribute more towards nation-building, the Government has adjusted the tax system to make it fairer and more equitable. 

Following the changes, buyers would have to pay higher stamp duties on residential properties over S$1.5 million.  

They would also have to fork out more Additional Registration Fee (ARF) for cars with an Open Market Value (OMV) above $40,000. 

These changes are likely to rattle those who are looking to acquire luxury cars and houses, but it is ultimately the way forward for us to help everyone in Singapore meet their needs

The logic for redistributive taxes is not just sound but necessary. 

And as Singaporeans, we ought to champion such policies that help to build a fair and progressive system of wealth distribution for societal welfare.

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Besides taxing the rich on their cars and cribs, this year’s Budget is also pretty far-reaching in its attempt to uplift lower-income and vulnerable groups. 

ComCare, a social assistance programme, is given a boost of S$300 million. 

Schemes such as ElderCare Fund and MediFund supporting lower-income seniors with their healthcare needs will receive a top-up of S$500 million and S$1.5 billion respectively. 

It does not stop here because Budget 2023 is the gift that keeps on giving.

The Enabling Employment Credit is now enhanced to cover a higher percentage of wages for businesses hiring people with disabilities (PwDs). 

Meanwhile, a new Uplifting Employment Credit in the form of a wage offset will be introduced to encourage firms to employ ex-offenders.

As for platform workers whose take-home pay will soon be affected by mandatory CPF contributions, a CPF Transition Support to cushion the impact will be in place for the first four years after CPF implementation.

There has always been a misconception that Singapore is a city for the rich. But judging by the string of initiatives in social reform, it is clear that Singapore is for everyone. 

In fact, bleeding-heart liberals might have to concede that given the extensive level of progressivism in this Budget, the PAP has just moved a tad left on the political spectrum.

What makes a good Budget?

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A good Budget is inclusive and far-sighted. It caters to the needs and concerns of the people and reassures them about the future. 

More importantly, it will help Singapore move forward in a new era of uncertainty and challenges. 

Has this year’s Budget lived up to these expectations? 

For the most part, yes. 

Budget 2023 checks all our boxes as a balanced one that aims to alleviate the immediate cost-of-living pressure, strengthen our social compact by tackling inequality, and turbocharge our economy by ensuring Singapore maintains a competitive advantage. 

As DPM Wong shared in a Facebook post, this is a Budget peppered with measures to help us tide through the immediate cost of living pressures while taking decisive steps to secure our future in a more uncertain and troubled world.

What did you like about this Budget? What else do you think it should have? Write to us at [email protected]

Photos via Lee Hsien Loong/Facebook, MOF/Facebook, MyCareersFuture/AIC/KidStart, MSF/Facebook