Sunday, 13 Jun 2021

NCMP Leong Mun Wai takes issue with need to borrow, draws strong rebuttal from DPM Heng Swee Keat

SINGAPORE – Non-Constituency MP Leong Mun Wai on Monday (May 10) asserted the Government had put out an inaccurate narrative on why there was a need to borrow to finance significant infrastructure.

The Progress Singapore Party member charged during the debate on the Significant Infrastructure Government Loan Act (Singa) Bill that this would not be necessary if the Government had not decided to “classify some (fiscal resources) into revenue, some not into revenue”.

His remarks drew a strong rebuttal from Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat, who said the Government follows international standards in its accounting.

“It is not my classification or the Ministry of Finance’s classification that this constitutes revenue available for spending, this does not… So please do not confuse the public that the government arbitrarily decides on what can be spent and what cannot be spent. This is a very serious allegation, which I hope you’ll take back,” said DPM Heng.

Mr Leong had said “inter-generational equity is not an accurate description of the purpose of the Singa scheme”.

He added that the current generation of Singaporeans has had to shoulder a disproportionate amount of the burden because the Government had always front loaded infrastructure, “parked a disproportionate amount of current fiscal resources into the national reserves”, and made people pay for their own retirement and healthcare costs.

Refuting this, DPM Heng said national expenditure on healthcare had grown from 35 per cent in 2011 to 46 per cent in 2018, and that more than half of Singapore’s workers do not pay income tax. “If Mr Leong would like to make a contribution to policy making in this chamber, please be rigorous, come here with fresh insights on new facts, bring this to the House for debate. Please do not reread and reread your old script.”

The debate went back and forth, with Mr Leong leaping up several times before he was called by Speaker Tan Chuan-Jin and asked to sit down. When he spoke, Mr Leong said DPM Heng had been unprofessional for suggesting he needed to “go back and do more homework and be more rigorous”.

The NCMP’s actions also prompted DPM Heng to say: “I hope that you listen carefully… I’m speaking and you’re looking into your phone. You know, I hope that you have the courtesy to at least listen when I am trying so hard to address you.”

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