The well-heeled may take the 7% GST in their stride, but it is certainly a burden to the low-income group. It is so all-embracing there is hardly any service, government or otherwise, that one is exempt from paying GST. The Finance Minister claimed in his tendentious Parliamentary speech that the low-income group paying GST comprised the bottom 60 per cent of households which contribute just 16 per cent of Singapore's GST revenue. Be that as it may, the fact remains that they are burdened with the oppressive GST.
The Minister asserted that what the low-income group will receive from the Government budget pay-outs will more than offset what they pay in GST. How long can this largesse last and this low-income group will go back to square one once government's hand-out is exhausted. Can you imagine that if you go to a restaurant where there is no service charge or where the service charge is 5 per cent, you will find that you are faced with an absurd bill for GST which is more than the service charge?
The opposition MP Mr. Low Thia Khiang has hit the nail on the head when he asserted in Parliament that the Government uses the GST as a panacea to everything. However strenously the Finance Minister tried to dismiss it offhand, there is no denying that Mr. Low's assertion is viewed with credibility by a significant section of the electorate. And his proposal of a two per cent cut in the GST cannot be an election gimmick and is without doubt very popular with the population, citizens or non-citizens, rich and poor, and even PAP members and supporters. So how can a credible Government not pay heed to a popular wish of the population and continue obstinately to expect their approbation as a matter of course. Worst still, there are talks in town that to aggravate the people's burden, the PAP Government is going to raise the GST to 10 per cent after the general election.
Although the GST is not a major issue, it is significant enough for the opposition parties to highlight it in their hustings. The poorer section of the electorate will certainly be enamoured of the not illogical opposition arguments against the GST. Even the middle class and the rich will readily lend their ears to the opposition stand on this absorbing subject. The Government's stand on this issue has been expounded ad nauseam and there is unlikely to be any new line of argument in their defence.
Our country is Singapore and what other countries do with their GSTs are irrelevant because their polities are different and any comparison is untenable. The PAP Government is kiasu in thinking that acceptance of Mr.Low Thia Khiang's proposal of 2 per cent cut in the GST is conceding a political advantage to the opposition. The PAP will still be returned to power, perhaps with a reduced percentage, in the coming general election and the opposition parties will be able to capture one or two GRCs if they show unity. This is Singapore's political reality and no amount of political play will be able to change this chessboard.