Just over half of S'poreans back Budget measures: Reach poll

Just over half of S'poreans back Budget measures: Reach poll file photo
Published: 12:10 PM, March 22, 2017
Updated: 1:50 PM, March 23, 2017

SINGAPORE — A survey conducted by Government feedback unit Reach has found that just slightly more than half (52 per cent) of the respondents expressed overall support for this year’s Budget initiatives — believed to be among the lowest since Reach began conducting the annual post-Budget polls several years ago. 

The telephone survey also found that many disagreed with the 30-per-cent water tariff hike, Reach said in a press release on Wednesday (March 22). 

The poll was conducted from February 22 to March 3, and the randomly-selected sample of 1,111 citizens was weighted to be demographically representative of the national population in terms of gender, age and race. 

Among the findings, 43 per cent disagreed or strongly disagreed with the statement that “it (was) reasonable to increase water prices to fund the higher costs of water production and to encourage water conservation”. In comparison, 24 per cent said they were “neutral”, 32 per cent agreed or strongly agreed and 1 per cent were “unsure”. 

Reach also said that at its feedback booths, “many Singaporeans had initially shared their unhappiness on the increased water prices”. 

It added: “But after various agencies and political office-holders had explained the increase, more people at (the booths) at the end of February and March said that they supported the increase. They understood the rationale behind the move and accepted that water is vital to our country’s survival and that it should be priced properly.”

Still, Reach chairman Sam Tan said the unit will embark on more public education. 

In comparison, there was strong support for initiatives to help persons with disabilities, families in housing, and children’s education. For example, 72 per cent agreed or strongly agreed that the increase in Central Provident Fund housing grant for couples buying their first resale flat would offer “significant support for young families”. An identical proportion felt the same about the Third Enabling Masterplan — a roadmap to build a more inclusive society where persons with disabilities are supported to realise their potential — would help those with disabilities to integrate better in the workforce and society. 

Asked if an increase in the number of infant-care places would “make Singapore a more conducive place to raise a family”, 66 per cent of the respondents agreed or strongly agreed.

Two-thirds of the respondents also either agreed or strongly agreed that training support offered under the SkillsFuture movement will create better employment opportunities for Singaporeans.

Despite the high levels of support for the social measures, overall support for the Budget measures was relatively low: 52 per cent agreed or strongly agreed with the statement: “Overall, I support the initiatives announced in the Budget.” More than a third (35 per cent) were neutral, while 11 per cent disagreed or strongly 

Reach did not reply to queries on whether this was the lowest level of support since it began conducting the polls. Nevertheless, earlier media reports showed that in 2010, 70 per cent of 800 Singaporeans surveyed expressed support for the Budget that year. The figure was about 60 per cent the following year. In 2012, the proportion spiked to 93 per cent while it was about two-thirds in 2013. 

Between 2014 and last year, the proportion hovered around 70 per cent. 

Members of Parliament interviewed by TODAY said the survey results mirror sentiments on the ground, especially concern about the water price hike among low-income Singaporeans. 

“Many Singaporeans are supportive of most of the measures in the Budget … but for some, the water price increase overshadows their support on other issues,” said Nee Soon GRC MP Lee Bee Wah. 

Fellow Nee Soon MP Louis Ng said the low overall support reflects the population’s desire for their voices to be heard. “The survey results show that we need to improve on our communication of Budget measures and to get the public involved in the process of drafting the Budget statement,” he said. 

Tampines GRC MP Desmond Choo added that the relatively low overall support is “not entirely unexpected” for a Budget that seeks to “position Singapore for the long term”. Faced with economic pressures, some Singaporeans may be looking out for more short-term support measures, he noted.