Government's money is people's money
SINGAPORE: Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said that it is important for Singaporeans to share a sense of collective responsibility in ensuring that policies designed for the people benefit everyone.
Mr Lee made this point on the live TV forum, 'Ask The PM' on Channel NewsAsia on Tuesday evening.
"You are talking about significant changes to the way social policies are going to be run and this is obviously going to cost the government a fair bit. Who is going to pay for this and how are you going to ensure that these groups pay for this," asked MediaCorp News Editor-in-Chief Walter Fernandez.
Mr Lee replied: "The government doesn't have money from heaven or our own sources. Government's money is people's money and eventually all the money has to come from taxes or some other revenues, from COEs or maid levies."
Mr Lee said this is one of the reasons why the government has to think very carefully before it decides to move to start new social programmes.
He said: "We have made the calculations. What we have announced, what we want to do, we can afford to do, can't all be out of government coffers or from the Finance Minister writing a cheque. Individuals still have a responsibility and they ought to pay some part of it, and the community also ought to take some responsibility for helping to make some things happen and helping to support the projects."
Mr Lee referred to the new Medishield Life policy as an example where everyone has to take responsibility when it comes to paying premiums, now that the scheme has been made universal.
"Take the Medishield Life for example. We have made it universal. Who is going to pay? Premiums will have to go up and individuals have to pay. The government will subsidise for the low income groups, particularly for the older ones who were in the pioneer generation. We are going to have a special package for them so the government will put some of it up.
"What happens when somebody doesn't pay? You cannot drop out. If you don't pay, then your benefits will effectively have to be funded by all the rest of us who have not defaulted and I don't think that is fair so not paying becomes a serious matter and then we will have to find ways to encourage people to pay their premiums."
Where did our money go? (By Roy Ngerng and Leong Sze Hian, 1 Oct 2013, The onlinecitizen)
"Singaporeans are forking up the money through taxes and Medisave, they are in effect paying for their own healthcare bills by themselves. Worse yet, they are paying a portion of their own wages into these schemes, without seeing significant real returns comparable to those obtained by the government, whilst these schemes continue to accumulate surpluses."