Sunday 1 February 2009

In good times or bad, give me money or I'll go naked

You know the recession has really hit home when you lose not only the shirt off your back, but your pants and skivvies too – and then walk around Holland Village with your equally under-dressed female companion.

And if you’ve also lost your home along with your threads, the police will provide a roof above your head – at least until you’re released on bail.

Despite the economic downturn – or because of it – the Government has managed to find a way to still give us some goodies in the new Budget, like doubling the GST credits.

Except they’re not called “goodies” this year. They're called "measures".

“Goodies” probably sounds too festive and heaven forbid, anyone should get too festive during Chinese New Year. There is a recession after all.

As the annual Budget is usually announced around CNY, there was a time when it was called a Hongbao Budget. Actually, that was only last year.

Now, less than 12 months later, it’s called the decidedly less festive “Resilience” Package. Which I guess sounds better than “The Global Economy Is Shot To Hell And We’ll All Screwed” Package.

To keep the CNY spirit, just imagine the Resilience Package coming in a giant red packet – since we’re going to be in the red anyway as the Budget is expected to go into deficit.

But let me get this straight:

When times are bad, the Budget provides financial relief in the form of tax rebates and additional GST credits.

When times were good, like last year when there was a budget surplus, the Government shared the bounty in the form of tax rebates and Growth Dividends.

I don’t mean to look a gift ox in the mouth, but if the Government is giving us cash in good times as well as bad, when will it not give us money?

If the Government doesn’t give us money when the economy is doing badly, we would complain that it’s not helping us through these tough times.

If the Government doesn’t give us money when the economy is doing well, we would complain that it’s not distributing the wealth.

What is the Government to do?

All I know is if I don’t get another Government hand-out in next year’s Budget whatever it’s called – Hongbao, Resilience, Little Nyonya – I’ll be walking around Holland Village naked in protest.

Get your camera phones ready.

- Published in The New Paper, 1 February 2009