Monday, 24 February 2020

Toasts of the Town

Kaya Toast
This simple dish is the ultimate comfort food for those with a sweet tooth, offering the right mix of crunch and sugar rush

It is the perfect snack that goes very well with a cup of local kopi (coffee) or teh (tea)—charcoal-grilled or toasted slices of bread enveloping slivers of cold butter and a generous spread of kaya (a traditional jam made from coconut and eggs).

Some eat this toasted sandwich for breakfast, others prefer it for tea. More often than not, it is accompanied by two soft-boiled eggs with runny yolks and translucent whites with a dash of dark soya and white pepper.

The savoury eggs are a good complement to the sweet kaya toast which has an appetising crispy crunch, a melt-in-your mouth layer of olive-green kaya and a generous dollop of butter.

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Sunday, 23 February 2020

8 Dirtiest Daily Objects That Have Dangerous Bacteria

Bacteria are part of living organism that exists. There are good bacteria and dangerous bacteria that cause illness. This dangerous bacteria looms everywhere even on surfaces that one cannot imagine they would. They exist on objects that are used on a daily basis with some of them having more bacteria than a toilet seat. This means that people should be careful when using objects to ensure that they clean them often to reduce the amount of bacteria on them. Some of the bacteria include Ecoli, Salmonella, and Staphylococcus.

A ring harbors more germs underneath it than anyone can imagine. This is because it is always fixed in one place no matter what the wearer touches. One washes dirt, goes to the washroom, touches dirty clothes and even eats when the ring is still on.

The germs find a warm place to hide on the underside. To prevent the germs and bacteria, the ring should be removed and the area cleaned often.

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Saturday, 22 February 2020

Singapore Budget 2020

10 things to know, from cash payout for S'poreans to GST not going up in 2021
Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat arrives at Parliament House to deliver the Budget speech on Feb 18, 2020.ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

A slew of measures to deal with short-term challenges such as the coronavirus outbreak and long-term economic development were introduced by Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat on Tuesday (Feb 18).

Immediate measures included a $4 billion package to help firms with cash flow and retain workers, and $1.6 billion for household expenses amid the coronavirus outbreak.

More long-term help included $6 billion set aside to cushion the impact of a future goods and services tax (GST) increase, and $8.3 billion to be spent on growing and transforming the economy over three years. Here are 10 highlights:

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What should you do after the Budget 2020 speech?

Support measures announced during the Singapore Budget 2020 exceeded even the most optimistic predictions. In an unprecedented move, Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat announced the launch of not one, but two special support packages totalling $5.6 billion.

Designed to benefit Singaporean companies, workers and households, both packages comprise a mix of broad measures and targeted schemes. In the first, named the Stabilisation and Support Package, the Government has set aside $4 billion to help tide firms and workers over the present economic slowdown, exacerbated by the spread of COVID-19. The second $1.6 billion package, named the Care and Support Package, is meant to provide relief and assistance to households in the interim.

Read on for our take on what the Singapore Budget 2020 means for you:

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COVID-hit sectors to get $4b and GST hike moved to 2025

The budget deficit could hit $5.1b in 2020, the government injects $1.6b into the CPF Housing Grant, and $1b gets pumped into cybersecurity measures.

  • Our Singapore Fund (OSF)
  • Nearly $4.3m has been committed to support ground-up projects for culture, heritage, arts, and sports
  • $250m to be set aside for greater movement to partnership efforts
  • Extend OSF beyond 2020 to support more ground-up initiatives
  • Issued National Innovation Challenges to date
  • AI-enabled healthcare, ageing, energy, urban mobility, etc
  • Government to address more specific challenges to encourage ground-up participation
  • Challenges in the social sector to support youth mental wellbeing amongst other things

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Overall budget deficit of $10.9b expected for FY2020

The Government expects an overall budget deficit of $10.9 billion, or 2.1 per cent of GDP, for fiscal 2020, said Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat on Tuesday (18 February). But there will be no draw on past reserves as there is enough fiscal surplus.

In his Budget speech on Tuesday, Heng said, “In the coming year, the Singapore economy faces considerable uncertainty, because of heightened risks in the global economy, and the rapidly evolving COVID-19 outbreak.

“Hence, for FY2020, our budget position will be more expansionary, with a larger basic deficit of $12.3 billion. This, together with the Stabilisation and Support Package, will impart a considerable fiscal boost to the economy to address near-term concerns,” Heng said. He added, “With our fiscal prudence since the beginning of this term of government, we have sufficient accumulated fiscal surplus to fund the overall deficit in 2020.”

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Long term measures are always better than short-term goodies

The Progress Singapore Party (PSP) has issued a press release today (19 February) in response to the government’s 2020 budget that was announced by Minister of Finance Heng Swee Keat yesterday in Parliament.

“In our pre Budget statement, dated 12th of February 2020, Progress Singapore Party (PSP) called for an expansionary budget and therefore, we are aligned in principle. We would like to thank the government for taking into consideration feedback from voices like ours,” the Party stated.

PSP also commends the allocation of S$800 million for the healthcare system to combat the COVID-19 outbreak and future emergencies of such nature. PSP hopes that the front line medical professionals would benefit in terms of preparation, capacity building and infrastructure to affront the challenges.

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EY reactions to Singapore Budget 2020

EY today released its reactions to the Singapore Budget 2020 announcement:
  • Ms. Soh Pui Ming, Singapore Head of Tax, Ernst & Young Solutions LLP -“Overall, Budget 2020 is a balanced one for extraordinary times. Budget 2020 showcased the government’s foresight in recognising that the twin drivers for Singapore economic transformation would be led by empowering the people of Singapore to learn and adapt, while incentivising enterprises to grow, transform and embrace our evolving workforce.”
  • Ms. Chai Sui Fun, Partner, International Tax and Transaction Services at Ernst & Young Solutions LLP - “This Budget provides needed short-term help to businesses and households to ride the current economic difficulty without taking focus away from the need to build the country’s capacity and develop potential of Singaporeans to secure our future.”
  • Mr. Chester Wee, EY Asean International Corporate Tax Advisory Leader - “While the Budget provides support packages to affected businesses and individuals during this trying time, it also urges continuous investments and upgrading so that Singapore emerges stronger after this challenging time.”

related: Wish list for Singapore Budget 2020

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AWARE: Budget 2020 lacks of clarity on new scheme introduced

The national Budget should have more clarity and explicit in the effectiveness of Matched Retirement Savings Scheme as this scheme appears to be a pilot in Singapore, said the country’s leading women’s rights and gender-equality advocacy group, AWARE.

AWARE has raised the concerns about the matched savings scheme following the budget announcement made by Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat on Tuesday (18 Feb) saying that the new scheme is introduced to help lower-to-middle-income Singaporeans aged 55 to 70 who have not been able to set aside the prevailing Basic Retirement Sum (BRS) to save more in their CPF accounts. “Why not top up eligible individuals’ accounts to meet the Basic Retirement Sum (BRS)? And what happens after the age of 70?” questioned Shailey Hingorani, AWARE’s head of Research and Advocacy, further probing that the organisation would like to understand more about the government’s definition on its success.

Citing an example from Mr Heng in his Budget speech – who said that the payout of retired couple who would together receive around $1,400 monthly, up from $570 – Ms Hingorani remarked that even with the new scheme, it would still not come close to $2,351, the necessary amount to sustain a basic standard of living which was calculated by researchers last year.

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An extraordinary Budget for extraordinary times

With businesses battling an unexpected downturn as a result of the Covid-19 outbreak, all eyes are on the Budget this year, specifically the “strong” relief package that the Government had promised.

Analysts are expecting the relief package to be at least S$500 million, more than double what the Government doled out back in 2003, when Singapore was going through an outbreak of the severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars).

Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat will deliver his Budget speech on Tuesday (Feb 18). Heng, who is also Finance Minister, said in a message to Singaporeans on Sunday that he will unveil a set of “broad-based” measures to support viable companies and help workers stay in their jobs, with more given to sectors that have been harder hit, such as food and beverage (F&B) as well as retail. “We will also support firms and workers to make the best use of this period to restructure, train, and upgrade so that we emerge stronger when the eventual upturn comes,” said Heng.

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Singapore plans biggest budget gap in more than two decades

Singapore will post its biggest budget deficit since at least 1997, pledging S$6.4bil (US$4.6bil) in dedicated support for an economy being slammed by the (Covid-19) coronavirus outbreak.

The deficit will widen to 2.1% of gross domestic product in the year through March 2021 from a projected 0.3% in the current fiscal year, Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat said Tuesday (Feb 18) in Parliament. The median in a Bloomberg survey of economists was for a fiscal 2020 shortfall of 1.5% of GDP.

Faced with an election due by April 2021 and a virus outbreak that’s having a worse impact than SARS, the government is stepping up its support for an economy that was already under strain from last year’s trade tensions. The state will set aside S$800mil to fight and contain the coronavirus outbreak, and will provide two economic support packages totaling S$5.6bil to assist businesses and consumers.

Highest projected deficit of $10.9 billion in decade to cushion coronavirus fallout

Armed with a $6.4 billion arsenal to fight the coronavirus and its fallout on the economy, this year's expansionary Budget could run a historic deficit of $10.9 billion - the highest in 10 years.

Coming in at 2.1 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP), it exceeds the projected deficit of $8.7 billion in 2009 during the global financial crisis, when the Government rolled out a $20.5 billion Resilience Package to help Singaporeans and businesses.

That deficit was eventually pared down to $0.82 billion, or just 0.3 per cent of GDP.

Singapore’s 2020 budget contains clear signals the general election is imminent

Before he began his budget speech, Singapore’s Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat sheepishly told parliament that he would speak for a tad longer than usual.

In years past, he would confine his speech to two files, said Heng, who is also Singapore’s deputy prime minister – but because of the sudden outbreak of the Covid-19 disease, he had to expand it. “To support the national effort, the budget file grew and grew. So today, I have three files instead of two. So please be patient,” he said to a few chuckles from the chamber.

The speech may have been long, but it was clear on one message: the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) is ready for the general election. The first clear signal the polls are imminent is the huge amount of money doled out by the government this year. The government recorded a gigantic budget deficit of S$10.9 billion (US$7.8 billion), largely due to transfers to companies and households.

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Amidst public clamour, Budget 2020 says GST remains the same for 2021

In today’s Budget 2020 announcement, Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat informed that the “The GST hike by 2 per cent will not take effect next year”. As such, the GST will remain at 7% in 2021 said the Deputy Prime Minister. He added, “After reviewing our revenue and expenditure projections, and considering the current state of the economy, I have decided that GST rate increase will not take effect in 2021.”

According to the Deputy Prime Minister when the GST is raised eventually, there will be a parallel of a S$6 billion Assurance Package for Singaporeans that will mitigate the impact of its implementation.

Under the Assurance Package, all Singaporean adults would receive cash pay outs between $700 and $1,600 throughout a period of 5 years. This amount would suffice to taper off at least five years’ worth of additional GST expenses. For those living in a one room or three room flats, they would receive enough to offset the increase for a period of 10 years.

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Budget 2020 announcements on impending GST hike will take some heat off the issue at next GE: Analysts

The Government’s decision to not raise the Goods and Services Tax (GST) in 2021, and the provision of a S$6 billion offset package when the hike takes effect by 2025, will take some heat out of this political hot potato at the coming General Election (GE) which could be just months away, analysts told TODAY.

Dr Gillian Koh, deputy director of research at the Institute of Policy Studies, said: “This, in a way, changes the tune of the political debate when the GE is held… It addresses anxieties about it, and certainly questions of the impact on low-income households around the issue of the GST rise. “It was a political hot potato when Mr Heng announced (in 2018) that the GST would be raised but what he has done… is mitigate the political effects of that by assuring Singaporeans."

Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat announced in his Budget speech on Tuesday (Feb 18) that the GST hike will not take effect next year given the fragile economic conditions and further impact from the Covid-19 virus outbreak. Analysts interviewed by TODAY agreed that it would have been insensitive to raise GST as early as next year.

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Netizens concerned GST will be increased as soon as 2022

In his Budget speech in Parliament on Tuesday (Feb 18), Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat announced that there will be no GST hike next yearHe did add, however, that an increase in the GST will still be needed by 2025. Overall, netizens were concerned that the GST will be increased as soon as 2022 and disappointed with the proposed Assurance Package.

Mr Heng had said the Government would “assess carefully the appropriate time for the increase” and that Singaporeans would be given “sufficient lead time”. When the GST is increased, a S$6 billion Assurance Package will be introduced to cushion the hike. In 2007, when the GST was increased from 5 per cent to 7 per cent, the Government offered a S$4 billion offset package. This time, it has been raised to S$6 billion.

Mr Heng said that most Singaporean households will receive offsets to cover at least five years’ worth of additional expenses brought on by the higher GST. All adult Singaporeans will receive a cash payout of between S$700 and S$1,600 over the course of five years.

Wishlist and what to expect

In a Facebook post on Friday (14 February), he shared that with businesses being affected by the ongoing COVID-19 situation, concerns had been raised by some workers on whether their jobs would be impacted. To this, he urged: “In these times, we urge companies to take reference from the tripartite guidelines on managing excess manpower and cut costs to save jobs instead of cutting jobs to save costs.”

At the same time, he stressed the importance of workers to upskill, reskill and multi-skill, in order to be ready for any opportunities that come along.

In line with that, he shared his hopes that this year’s Budget will look at further enhancing the absentee payroll and course fee funding so while companies can receive greater support in investing in their workers, workers can also “stay engaged, empowered, employed and employable in this uncertain economic landscape.”

related: Live updates: Singapore Budget 2020

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Full Coverage:
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