Our Finance Minister, Heng Swee Keat announced the Singapore Budget 2016 just last week. The minister addressed a lackluster economy, and talked about various schemes in place that could hopefully be of help to industries and individuals. Here are some of the highlights that you want to take note of.
1. New parents get S$3,000 upfront grant
It seems that the quest to get Singaporeans to pop babies will never cease. As part of the new First Step Grant, parents of Singaporean babies born from 24 March onwards will receive S$3,000 upfront in their child’s Children Development Account (CDA). This amount is given upfront, and can be used for childcare and healthcare needs. In addition, the government also matches your CDA savings dollar-for-dollar, up to a certain limit.
This no-conditions upfront grant is definitely good news for all parents-to-be.
2. KidSTART Pilot Programme
It’s no secret that raising kids in Singapore is one stressful affair. For some reason, running around the playground wild and free and climbing trees is no longer stimulating enough for their precious minds. These days, childhood often involves signing up for development programmes, and not every parent can afford them. The KidSTART Pilot Program me is an initiative that helps parents pay for these programmes for their children six years and below.
According to the minister, the programme enables children to receive appropriate learning, developmental and health support. About 1,000 children are expected to benefit from this programme.
3. Silver Support for seniors in low-income groups
The Silver Support is definitely one of the key highlights of the budget, and it shows that the government does have a heart. Seniors aged 65 years and above who are in the bottom 30 percent of income can get between S$300 and S$750 per quarter to supplement their retirement incomes.
If you’re wondering how this group of seniors would be selected, there are actually three criteria used in combination- lifetime wages, housing type, and level of household support. Upon qualification, the type of housing that the senior lives in determines the amount that he or she receives. This ranges from S$300 per quarter for those who live in a 5-room HDB flat, and S$750 for those who live in a 1-2 bedroom HDB flat.
This permanent scheme can mean a significant boost to low-income seniors who are barely making ends meet. There is also no need for any applications, in case you were wondering, as the CPF Board will notify those who are eligible.
4. Techskills Accelerator
This is good news for those wanting to enter the Tech industry as a professional. The government is recognizing the shortage of tech talents in the country and wants to grow the number of ICT (Information and Communications Technology) sector professionals, ranging from programmers and coders, cybersecurity specialists, to user experience designers.
A new skills development and job placement hub for the ICT sector, called the Techskills Accelerator, will be created. This also means a development of industry-recognised skills standards and certifications. What this means is that you can look forward to more variety and quality of tech courses, and eventually more access to jobs within the sector.
You probably have already heard of this one, and received the initial S$500 credit that has been given to all Singaporeans aged 25 and above with effect from January 2016. If you haven’t already, log in to the Skillsfuture website and you’d find a wide range of courses that you can use this credit for. This not only includes education and training providers from Singapore, but also online courses from Coursera. The government has plans to top up the account, so S$500 is certainly just a start.
In addition, there’s also the SkillsFuture Study Awards, a S$5,000 monetary award for early to mid-career Singaporeans who want to deepen their skills in 12 selected areas.
6. GST Vouchers
About 1.4 million Singaporeans will get a one-off GST Voucher. A “special cash payment” of up to S$200 will be given, in addition the regular GST cash voucher of up to S$300 paid out in August. This is meant for Singaporeans aged 21 above who have earned an income of S$26,000 and below in year 2015. Depending on the value of the home, the cash payout totals to S$250 or S$500.
Furthermore, senior citizens will continue to receive the GST Medisave voucher, ranging from S$150 to S$450, and Singaporean households who live in HDB flats will also receive their GST Utilities-Save voucher this year, bringing the total annual rebate to an amount of up to S$260.
7. Personal Income Tax Relief Cap
There is now a limit to how much personal income tax relief you can claim. The cap is set at S$80,000 and according to Mr Heng, affects only 1% of the population. This ceiling is expected to take effect from Year of Assessment 2018, and will raise approximately S$100 million a year.
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