Meaningless to make those in subsidised wards pay GST : MP

* Dialogue on the GST at Chong Boon ———————————–

SHOULD patients in subsidised hospital wards pay the Goods and Services Tax?

Mr S. Chandra Das, an MP for Cheng San GRC, thinks not, and will raise this matter when Parliament discusses the GST Bill.

It was “meaningless” for the Government to subsidise patients in B2 and C class wards yet charge them the GST, he said yesterday.

“To get people to pay a 3 per cent tax and also to subsidise them is doing the same thing twice over,” he said at a dialogue on the GST for Chong Boon grassroots leaders.

But, he stressed, only subsidised patients should be waived from paying the tax.

“The exemption list can go on and on and we need to draw the line somewhere. I will not make a case for patients in other ward classes as they can afford to pay the GST.”

He made these comments when asked by a grassroots leader on the need to impose the GST on health services.

According to the White Paper on the GST, health services will be subjected to the tax, which will be implemented in April next year after public discussion.

But the Government will increase subsidies to the public health system, including polyclinics and restructured hospitals.

Another grassroots leader asked if exempting subsidised patients would lead to too many people wanting to be admitted to these wards.

Mr Das said this could be prevented by limiting the wards to those who really needed it. “Concessions are a privilege and not a right. Not everyone is eligible. You cannot have your cake and eat it.”

During the forum held at the Chong Boon Community Centre in Ang Mo Kio Avenue 10, some of the 50 grassroots leaders present expressed fears that the GST would lead to profiteering.

One suggested that the Government should draw up a list of prices of essential items and monitor the prices.

Noting that this was a good idea, Mr Das said that the Consumers Association of Singapore (Case) was best placed to do this.

Case could highlight the prices of these goods through the media, he said, adding that the Government should provide the association with more funds to carry out this function.

Speaking to The Straits Times later, he said that while the GST might not cost the Government politically, the real test of whether people accepted it would only be known once the tax was implemented.

He urged the Government to have simple and clear guidelines on how people could, for example, claim rebates to offset the GST.

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