ICYMI – Here is what went down in Parliament this October  

06/10/2023
PAP parliament sg

Day 1 (Oct 3): Money laundering, income tax and vaping youngsters  

It was hardly surprising that the bulk of October 3rd‘s Parliament sitting centred around a S$2.8 billion money laundering case, an obscene amount most of us will never see in this lifetime. There were three separate ministerial statements, all of which reiterated a commitment to strengthen anti-money laundering efforts and double down on financial crimes.  
 
A flurry of supplementary questions soon followed, including one by MP Mr Edward Chia (Holland–Bukit Timah GRC), who was concerned about charities becoming mired in criminality should they receive donations unwittingly from individuals involved in money laundering.  
 
Nonetheless, there were plenty of other robust discussions as well. Besides further support to help ease the cost of living, Minister Dr Maliki Osman shared plans to educate youngsters about the ills of vaping. Meanwhile, Senior Parliamentary Secretary (SPS) Eric Chua reiterated a commitment to address inequality and improve employment opportunities for persons with disabilities (PWDs)

The conversation surrounding money continued into the second half, as Senior Minister of State (SMS) Chee Hong Tat gave the second reading for the Income Tax Bill. While taxation is hardly a welcomed word since nobody likes paying for it, the subject did spark a lively debate about the fairness and sustainability of our tax system.  

Sharing her thoughts on the changes requiring Self-Employed Persons (SEPs) to submit their income through intermediaries, MP Ms Mariam Jaafar (Sembawang GRC) said, “I have to admit that this news has led to some consternation on the ground…but it is the Government’s responsibility to accurately assess the income tax of each hardworking Singaporean worker, and be proactive when the data tells us that something has changed…and to extend support when needed.” 

In an era where wealth is increasingly concentrated within a small number of individuals, taxing the rich is less a revolutionary slogan but a policy imperative of any Government looking to build a fair and just society where everyone prospers.  
 
As MP Mr Saktiandi Supaat (Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC) noted, “We seek to make our tax system fairer, easier to use and an important lever to boost our economic competitiveness.”  

Day 2 (Oct 4): Stamps, water and secret societies  

Bread and butter issues dominated the second day of Parliament, especially with the price of postage and water rising in the coming months. For the former, SMS Tan Kiat How shared that while the cost of sending letters would increase, the impact is felt more by businesses rather than households. And to his credit, when was the last time any of us sent a letter since the era of pen-pals ended? 

On the other hand, water is an entirely different matter. While one could forgo stamps, water is practically the elixir of life. SMS Dr Amy Khor knows, which might explain the mathematical precision in her explanation to reassure us that the Government will provide financial support to mitigate the impact of the water price increase. 

“With the full increase in water price by 2025, three-quarters of households will see an increase of less than $10 per month in their water bill,” said SMS Khor. Additionally, U-Save rebates will fully offset the rise in utility bills for 1- to 2-room HDB households, while those in 3- and 4-room households will see increases of about $2 per month.  

It is all pretty manageable after SMS Khor laid out the figures. Moreover, we are (once again) reminded of the magic of taxation, whose revenue is responsible for funding the much-needed utility rebates.  

Following the cost-of-living concerns, two more Bills were read, including amendments to the Societies Act. But do we still have societies? Plenty, in fact, with over 1400 registration applications in the past five years. Most, if not all, are benign.  
 
But in an age where the risk of foreign interference is high, there must be effective levers to ensure that societies do not become proxies for unlawful purposes, noted Minister of State (MOS) Sun Xueling. 

Finally, Parliament ended with an adjournment motion by the Opposition to legislate the right to flexible work arrangements (FWAs). If the idea sounds repetitive, that might be because PAP MPs such as Ms Gan Siow Huang (Marymount SMC) and Ms Yeo Wan Ling (Pasir Ris–Punggol GRC) have long championed FWAs as a way to support caregivers and seniors while helping businesses retain talent.  

Besides, rather than enshrine everything into law, building upon trust and understanding between employers and employees might be a less draconian approach to changing human behaviour.  

And just like that, Parliament ended as one that put our minds at ease. Through the speeches of our MPs and Ministers, we are left encouraged that the Government is here to help every step of the way.  

Picture Source: Chee Hong Tat/ Mariam Jaafar/ Saktiandi Supaat/ Amy Khor/ Gan Siow Huang/ Parliament SG via Facebook