NDR 2019: Household income ceiling for additional preschool subsidies to be raised to $12,000

20-Aug-2019 Intellasia | Yahoo News Singapore | 6:02 AM Print This Post

The long-term costs of protecting Singapore from the effects of rising sea levels could cost more than $100 billion over the next 50-100 years, warned prime minister Lee Hsien Loong in his annual National Day Rally (NDR) speech on Sunday (18 August).

Speaking during the English portion of his 16th NDR speech, Lee compared the fight against climate change to the imperative of military defence. “Both the SAF and climate change defences are existential for us. These are life and death matters,” said the 67-year-old.

“We should treat climate change defences like we treat the SAF with utmost seriousness. Work steadily at it, maintain a stable budget year after year, keep your eye on the target, and do it over many years and several generations. That way, we can afford it, and when we need it, we will have it ready.”

He added, “With the SAF, we hope never to go to war. But with climate change, we know for sure sea levels will rise.”

In possibly his most comprehensive remarks on climate change to date, Lee stressed, “Because we are a low-lying island, Singapore is especially vulnerable to one grave threat, and that is rising sea levels.”

He noted that large parts of Singapore are low-lying, including a long stretch on the East Coast from Changi to the city.

“Not only will property values be affected, but safety and liveability. And it will affect not only these particular areas, but the whole city,” said Lee, noting that the areas include hospitals, schools and workplaces. This means coastal defences are needed to protect entire areas.As part of the government’s ongoing efforts to improve preschool education, it will make preschool education more affordable for more families, especially those from low to middle-income families.

Currently, additional means-tested subsidies are available to those whose household income do not exceed $7,500. “We will raise the income ceiling to $12,000 per month,” said prime minister Lee Hsien Loong in the National Day Rally speech on Sunday (18 August). “This means 30,000 more households will qualify for means-tested subsidies starting next year.”

To illustrate this, he cited the middle-income Low family, comprising two working parents and children aged 2 and 5. Both boys attend a government-supported preschool.

“Before the changes, and Low pay about $560 per month for each child’s preschool. The enhanced subsidy will knock off around one third of the Lows’ preschool expenses, which will go down to around $370 per child,” said Lee.

When the Lows’ eldest son goes to primary school, which Lee pointed out “is almost free”, they may need to send him to student care in the afternoons. This will cost them about $300 per month. “The total of primary school fees plus student care fees, is still less than their current preschool expenses,” he explained. “In the medium term, we should aim to bring down full-day preschool expenses to around that levelthe cost of primary school plus after-school student care.”

Though time is needed to get there, that’s what the government is working towards, Lee said.

“We will also increase the quantum of preschool subsidies, across the board,” he added.

Like HDB

Besides subsidies, the number of government-supported pre-school places will also be increased from 50 per cent to 80 per cent, “just like the HDB (Housing & Development Board)”, Lee said.

He noted that several women PAP MPs made an important point: that preschool should be like housing and healthcare, where there is a good and affordable government-funded option for all Singaporeans. The MPs, led by Senior Parliamentary Secretary Sun Xueling, had surveyed young parents on preschools and they had concerns about affordability.

“Already, we spend around $1 billion a year on early childhood education. And this will more than double over the next few years,” said Lee.

He ended his section on preschool education with hints of more changes to comespecifically to help increase birth rates.

“The younger ministers have a few more ideas to support couples to have more kids, and to keep HDB flats affordable. I will leave these goodies to them… to make the announcements later.

“Meanwhile, I will be counting the number of babies born, and hoping for the number to go up!” he said.



Category: Singapore

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