Why the Singapore Budget 2018 left me hopeful, but not stress-free about the future.
As I read the numerous articles on Budget 2018, the fact that I’m now in my early 20s hit me harder than I’d expected. The carefree nature of being a teenager still lingers, while I begin to face the expectations of being an adult. It never occurred to me how crucial it was to have a plan for my future – that the usual aspects of life such as a career, home, and family don’t just happen. Even more so for any woman who hopes to start her own family, as time isn’t always on our side. Yet, there are so many things for us to consider before taking each step. This year’s budget speech left me hopeful, yet not at all stress-free about my future.
Here’s what appealed to me as a young 20-something who hopes get married and start a family while still in my roaring twenties.
1. Increasing the Enhanced Proximity Housing Grant (PHG) to 4km
This means that couples buying a resale flat to live near their parents can receive the $20,000 grant as long as their home is located within 4km of their parents’. Having seen friends and relatives struggle to find houses near enough to their parents that fit their budget and needs, and still allow them to enjoy the housing grant (because $20,000 is a huge chunk when you’re starting out), it was a big worry of mine too. With this increase in proximity from 2km to 4km, I feel more relieved that my future spouse and I will be able to consider a lot more homes in order to find the perfect one for us! Furthermore, if I decide to buy a resale flat to live with my parents, I can get a $30,000 grant, up from $20,000 previously. Something for the boyfriend and me to think about, huh?
2. Increase in annual Edusave contributions for students
Many of us in our 20s struggle to convince ourselves that starting a family and having children will be rewarding enough. Furthermore, child-raising is not exactly wallet-friendly in Singapore. Even though the increases in Edusave contributions from $200 to $230 for each primary school student, and from $240 to $290 for each secondary school student, may not seem like much, any amount parents get to save is a bonus. With this increase, perhaps more children of different social backgrounds will be able to have access to early education as well.
In a country based on meritocracy, every chance at a better education often means a better future. Students from low-income families shouldn’t have to fear not being able to attend enrichment classes, field camps, or overseas trips with their classmates. I am a strong believer that every child in our education system should have an equal opportunity to maximise their learning. And I’m glad our government took steps to ensure that.
(See also: Raising a Baby is Expensive – Here’s Some Help)
However, while there were numerous announcements that made me hopeful about the coming years, some other announcements made me a little fearful about the future.
1. The GST increase from 7% to 9% sometime between 2021 and 2025
I believe most Singaporeans can agree that this is a big worry. Often, when purchasing items, GST is the pivot that tips an item from the “affordable” bracket to the “expensive” (and out of reach) one. With the increase in GST, many people starting out in their careers, and those from lower-income families, may struggle to purchase the same goods that they always have.
Having a child in Singapore is already a difficult choice to make due to the high costs of education, necessities, and wanting to give our kids the best. With this GST hike, it’ll be a larger point of contention for couples who are still on the fence about having children. We’d all have to consider our ability to provide our child with the best life possible – and if the cost of living is far too high for the average family’s salary – will that be possible?
2. Extending GST to “imported goods” from Jan 1, 2020
GST will now be extended to “imported goods” such as the music and movies we stream. I’ve always thought of the Internet as a separate medium to physical goods, and having GST apply on streaming leads me to worry about where we draw the line. Many young adults, like myself, turn to Netflix and Spotify for entertainment. Now, with the added tax, it may be too hefty a price for us to justify. With this tax on streaming, and movie prices through the roof, entertainment may very soon be a privilege not everyone can enjoy.
While the verdict isn’t out yet on all the new tax additions, I do feel a sense of worry that the cost of living will become increasingly heavy. Salaries don’t seem to be increasing at the same rate the cost of goods are, and to expect families to bear extra costs on the same dime makes it more difficult all around.
This may also cause young adults like myself to refrain from starting our own families sooner – as the “barrier to entry” is just too high. We’d like to offer our children the standard of living we’ve enjoyed, but now it’s become harder than ever to achieve that.
(See also: Save $4,500 in Baby’s First Year)
However, I’m remaining hopeful that these schemes will be able to help new homeowners, students, and lower-income families. We’ve managed to make it through the other hikes in the past. I hope this time, it’ll be no different.