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Bertha HarianBertha Harian

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A bountiful budget

There’s really nothing to dislike about the Budget, unless you are a smoker, drinker, gambler and employer of foreign construction workers. Even employers who have to put out an extra 1 percentage point for in CPF for Medisave and for those over 50 years are getting some kind of help to foot their bills. Naturally, they are still screaming about cost increases but there’s so much money being made available now for productivity increases and other sorts of subsidises to level up wages that they out-strip the bosses’ pay-out.

No wealth taxes too, whether on big homes or luxury cars. (Sorry about your golf club membership though) No rise in income tax rates. Nothing on the GST rate – but got more vouchers! Property cooling measures are still in place despite Kwek Leng Beng’s personal/professional appeal. If you’ve already got a roof over your head, excellent. If you are still trying to afford one, ask Mr Khaw Boon Wan – he said there are more than enough HDB flats to go around.

There’s nothing but praise for the Pioneer Generation Package with the G allowing appeals from those who couldn’t make the age-65 or citizen before 1973 criteria. The very old will be permanently Medi-shielded. It is going to cost us $8billion in all but, no worries, the money’s been budgeted for over the years. Don’t even have to raid the reserves. What? We won’t be raising any taxes or any kind of duties/fees to pay for this? Or does the G mean the higher rates have already been included in “future’’ budgets?  ST’s Chua Mui Hoong made an interesting point about this: that never mind if the People’s Action Party is in power or not, the PGP will still pay out as promised. Hmm. So, it is NOT a vote-buying exercise…

Really, there’s nothing not to like about the Budget, from an individual’s point of view. Now, if only my mother didn’t go to the Specialist Outpatient Clinic last week, and we waited for the fees to be halved with implementation of the PGP!    

Okay, that’s all praise for the Budget although you can bet that people will still be grumbling about being left out. Like the people aged below 65 (the nation-building generation?) Or some people will call for more means-testing of benefits among the above 65s, besides gradations of age…

One thing I can’t wrap my mind around is the higher subsidies for pre-school education. Not that I think it’s bad but that there seems to be a great leap or cliff effect between the cost of sending a kid to pre-school and to primary school. From $100 plus a month at the lowest end of kindergarten fees to what a parent described as a few dollars for primary school? Sort of makes you wonder if the 10 years of compulsory education policy should be extended – and funded. If pre-school education is really so important, there should be some harmonisation of fees from pre-school to primary to secondary, no? Anyway, that’s a big issue and one to decided by not just the education ministry also the family and social development ministry which has oversight over pre-school.

Now there was something that Finance Minister Tharman said which made me feel very guilty. I happened to be one of those people who cannot stand mechanical/technological ordering in a restaurant. I go to Sakae Sushi frequently and have never used the interactive menu board although I DO re-fill my own green tea (can’t help it.. the hot water tap is by the table). I went to my usual bak kut teh coffeeshop in Paya Lebar and was aghast to find that it had switched to self-ordering on some contraption rigged to the table. I hailed a waiter to take the order. Last week, I was at a Japanese restaurant and ordering was done by an iPad secured to the table. The waitress did the tapping for me and my friend and it took much, much longer than if she just wrote down the orders herself…Really.  

My excuse is this: I want someone to explain to me what I’ll be eating, what the dish contains, recommend me stuff to order, or because I want stuff that isn’t on the menu or some part of the dish changed. Besides, the wait staff are standing around with nothing to do. Also, I am not in fast-food restaurant. And I’m still paying service charge. In fact, I usually TIP.

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 Okay, I’m spoilt.    

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An ex-journalist who can't get enough of the news after being in the business for 26 years

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