Support for national budget plunges 25% from previous years’ poll results?

Support for national budget plunges 25% from previous years’ poll results?
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The Government’s feedback unit, REACH, has released its survey results on Budget 2017.

In a statement to the media on 22 March, Wednesday, REACH revealed that overall only 52% of the 1,111 Singaporeans polled by phone gave a thumbs-up to the Budget.

This is a sharp drop in support compared to previous years when REACH held similar post-Budget surveys.

In 2015 and 2016, its poll had found that “more than 7 in 10” respondents expressed overall support for measures announced by the government.

In percentage terms, the drop from previous years compared to 2017 would be about 25.7%.

Media reports of REACH’s 2017 survey results

According to the TODAY newspaper, “The 1,111 Singapore citizens polled are aged 20 and above, and were selected at random and weighted to be demographically representative of the national population in terms of gender, age and race.”

REACH has not explained the drop in support in this year’s poll.

REACH’s 2015 poll results
REACH’s 2016 poll results

Budget 2017, which was delivered by Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat in February, had introduced improvements in post-secondary education bursaries, enhanced housing grants for couples seeking their first HDB flats, and an increase in infant care places, among other measures.

It had been criticised by economists and small and medium enterprises (SMEs) for not going far enough to address some of the immediate or short-term challenges facing the Singapore economy and business costs issues.

The Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SCCCI), for example, described the Budget as “disappointing”, and that there were “not enough near-term measures to help” SMEs.

“Businesses are concerned with the impact on their business costs, especially with the immediate increase of diesel tax, and soon water price,” the SCCCI told the media.

The Singapore Business Federation (SBF) had also expressed similar sentiment about the Budget.

It said the limited measures announced by Mr Heng were “inadequate short-term support to lower business and compliance costs.”

“The business community has repeatedly conveyed their concerns on rising business costs through various platforms,” said the SBF.

Others, however, saw Budget 2017 as the government’s realistic way of dealing with the economic challenges facing the country.

“The main takeaway is that the government is being patient and pragmatic about the limitations in terms of near-term stimulus and is looking at the long term,” said Julian Wee of the National Australian Bank. “It’s better to guide the economy in the right direction than having immediate large-scale policies.”

In the REACH survey, one of the main concerns expressed by respondents was the water price hike of 30% which will be spread over two years, the first will come into effect on 1 July this year, while the second at the same time next year.

The REACH survey found that a majority of 43% of respondents disapproved of the increase, which the government said was needed to help Singapore become self-sustaining as far as water resource is concerned.

Of those surveyed by REACH, only 32% agreed with the water price hike, while the remaining 24% were neutral.

REACH said, however, “that the sentiment shifted at their feedback booths after efforts made by various agencies and political office holders to explain the increase”, according to a TODAY report.

The water hike had come on the back of other increases in fees and charges, including a rise in electricity and gas prices, along with service and conservancy charges by town councils run by the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP).