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Annual value of home ‘best available proxy’ in means-testing

SINGAPORE — The annual value of one’s home is not a perfect measure of wealth, but it remains the “best available proxy” in helping the Government to determine eligibility for its social-support schemes, Senior Minister of State for Finance Sim Ann said yesterday.

TODAY file photo

TODAY file photo

SINGAPORE — The annual value of one’s home is not a perfect measure of wealth, but it remains the “best available proxy” in helping the Government to determine eligibility for its social-support schemes, Senior Minister of State for Finance Sim Ann said yesterday.

Furthermore, as this data does not need to be separately collected, using it allows the Government to deliver benefits, such as the GST Voucher, to recipients automatically without their having to sign up for them, she added yesterday at the Ministry of Finance’s Committee of Supply debate.

Ms Sim also noted that targeted schemes form “only a small part” of the total benefits that Singaporeans, including private-property dwellers, receive. These include broad-based schemes such as healthcare, education and training subsidies such as the SkillsFuture credit, marriage and parenthood package, lower foreign domestic worker levies for those with young children or elderly, as well as senior citizen transport concession.

She was responding to Mr Edwin Tong, Member of Parliament (MP) for Marine Parade GRC, who suggested the Government review its means-testing criteria so those who require assistance do not fall through the cracks. For instance, he said there are some living in private estates who may have little or no regular income. But because of the “good annual value” of their homes, they do not qualify for many of the social schemes that they might need to get by.

“To this group of people, annual value is indeed something of a misnomer. And it is really no answer to tell these people that they should sell their homes and live off the remaining proceeds of the sale.

“We will only be dislocating many of them from their homes, the environment they are comfortable with, and this would directly undermine efforts at fostering social fabric within our communities here,” Mr Tong said.

His sentiment echoed that of other MPs such as Mr Zaqy Mohamad (Chua Chu Kang GRC) and Mr Lim Biow Chuan (Mountbatten SMC) who, during the Budget debate last week, urged the Government to remove housing type as a criterion for the Silver Support Scheme.

Ms Sim said appeals by those “who are in need and in exceptional circumstances” will be carefully considered on a case-by-case basis. “We will continue to review our means-testing criteria across all schemes to ensure that our assistance is targeted at those who need (it) most,” she added. Lee Yen Nee

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