Budget Debate 2018: Fight and fight again

After this entire Budget and Committee of Supply debate is over, we reckon the only thing people that people may recall is the spat between Minister Heng Swee Keat, Minister Shanmugam and WP MPs Pritam Singh and Sylvia Lim.

Yup, the focus has shifted to the veteran (and probably most prominent female) politician of the Blues.

There’s been so much back and forth that even we ourselves are slightly confused. But erm… what are they fighting about really huh? Ok, let’s break it down:

  1. Ms Lim made a statement in Parliament last Thursday (1 Mar). She said that the government had delayed the GST hike (rather than raising it immediately), because it had committed itself to a position where they had said previously that they had enough funds.

 

“We do note that in the run-up to the Budget discussion there were some test balloons being floated out about the fact that the Government needs to raise revenue. And immediately the public seized on the fact that DPM Tharman and perhaps other leaders had earlier said that the Government has enough money for the decade. So the public pointed out that ‘hey, you know, is this a contradiction?’

“And I rather suspect myself that the Government is stuck with that announcement, otherwise, you know, if their announcement had not been made, perhaps we would be debating a GST hike today.”

–  Sylvia Lim

  1. PAP government got angry. (Lol, we thought that Ms Lim should be more prepared by now. If there’s anything that gets the PAP government’s dander up, it’s calling them dishonest. Or saying that they have back peddled in the face of public reaction (populist government!). And Ms Lim essentially implied both.)

  2. Minister Heng and Minister Shan fought back in Parliament.

Both made clear that while the government had said that there was enough money at present – they had also added that GST might have to go up in future to avoid deficits when our needs had grown. Harsh words were thrown around – “baseless accusations!”; “hypocritical and dishonest!”

  1. Ms Lim said she will go back and do her homework. She refused to take this lying down – and insisted that she had acted in honest belief. She also added that following the sitting, she would go back and review her facts.

“ The basis for my statement was that it is my belief that the announcements by the Government earlier on, that they had enough revenues for this term of Government had now tied their hands as to when the GST increase can kick in,” said Ms Lim.

“As to the chronology of events that the minister recited, I do not have them on hand. I have to go back and check, to be fair to him. But this is my honest belief.”

– WP MP Sylvia Lim

(Credit to her – I admire her ability to stand firm in a glowering face like Minister Shan’s)

  1. PAP government issues multiple statements. Minister Heng later issued a statement – which asked if Ms Lim would now retract her statement, given that she had gone back to review her facts. Senior Minister-of-State Indranee Rajah also joined into the fun, publishing a lengthy note on Facebook to say what had been the government’s position on taxes yada yada yada. And lastly, Leader of the House Grace Fu delivered a statement in Parliament today (6 Mar), to put on record that Ms Lim had to withdraw her allegations OR ELSE.

  2. Just kidding, there’s no Number #6. We don’t know what happens here.

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Some hot potatoes we are mulling over:

  1. Jengan tension, ok, everyone! Both whites and blues. No one disagrees that MPs should have Parliamentary privilege, but what’s in a privilege? MPs should be free state their opinion, to comment on policies and politics, and even bring up rumors for rebuttal in Parliament.

But if you are wrong, then say you are wrong lah. No one will blame you.

  1.  Don’t bully Sylvia anymore lah – she doesn’t have a large team of people to help her to fact-check in real time. And yes – while this doesn’t give Sylvia for shooting her mouth off without doing her homework (Parliamentary privilege protects you from legal consequences but not from looking sloppy), she’s still the underdog, ok? Give chance.
  2. But even got parliament privilege also doesn’t mean can anyhow ask question right. We like the question that Sylvia asked, but maybe could have asked in a more neutral way? It’s not what you ask but how you ask? But anyway we are not politicians, so we don’t know lah.
  3. Seriously, can we focus on the real issues at hand? This is our Budget debate. We are looking at how Singapore can survive for the next few years in a complex world where Trump is President and in China you can be President forever. STOP DISTRACTING US.
  4. But actually, why Sylvia Lim until now never say anything huh? See Pt 1.