Photo from Business Times

Speaking at a post-Budget forum held by the Economic Society of Singapore, economist Walter Theseira said that the only reason why healthcare expenditures are rising is because there are more poor people not being able to pay for their hospital bills. Attributing the increased spending to the shortfall of Medisave, the Singapore University of Social Sciences economist said the the government need to change policies to help Singaporeans become self-reliant:

“While Singapore has long maintained that its policies are based on principles of self-reliance – meaning that individuals should pay for their own needs and not rely on transfers from others – in practice, these policies have been moderated by practical reality. The reason why we have a rapidly rising healthcare operational budget must be because most patients don’t have enough to pay for their own healthcare expenses. This means the question of “who pays and who benefits” goes beyond weighing up a GST hike against tapping more on the reserves; policymakers also need to plug gaps in schemes like Medisave.”

The economists at the forum also said they do not know if the government’s 50%-rule on using the investment returns of Temasek Holdings and GIC has been prudent, simply because nobody knows how much there are in the national reserves. None of them was able to opine if the government could have deployed more of the investment returns instead of raising the GST to 9%:

“But in the absence of public information about parameters such as the size of the reserves and the rate of return on investing them, any speculation…is quite meaningless. (Only when we know the amount), we can then have a meaningful discussion about the right rate of drawdown.”