Chee Hong Tat rebuts PSP’s Leong Mun Wai’s analogy opposing GST hike, says filial piety & taking care of elderly is a virtue

The Ah Gong tale was first brought up by then-MP Lee Bee Wah in a 2019 parliament sitting.

Lee Wei Lin | November 08, 2022, 05:00 PM

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Much has been said in parliament about the proposed hike to the Goods and Services Tax (GST), which is slated to increase from the current 7 per cent to 8 per cent in 2023, and to 9 per cent in 2024.

The Government passed the GST (Amendment) bill in Parliament yesterday (Nov. 7), with all the opposition Members of Parliament (MPs) recording their dissent.

What Leong Mun Wai said

Among those who voiced their concerns about the hike was Non-constituency Member of Parliament (NCMP) Leong Mun Wai, who is also part of the Progress Singapore Party (PSP).

Leong said that he would share a "sequel" to the story of Ah Seng and Ah Gong (grandfather), which was brought up in parliament by former People's Action Party (PAP) Member of Parliament (MP) Lee Bee Wah.

He claimed that Ah Seng would give Ah Gong a "large portion" of his salary to help with expenses. Ah Gong asked for more money from Ah Seng even though the latter had more bills to pay after getting married.

Leong added that Ah Gong "deliberately withheld" from Ah Seng that the family is quite wealthy. The family assets were left behind by Ah Gong's ancestors.

According to Leong, Ah Gong would get upset whenever any family member asked about their assets, calling them wastrels and would tell them not to speak recklessly, citing family rules.

"Ah Seng wants to leave more assets for future generations, but solving problems for the current generation should be of utmost importance," he continued. "Fellow Singaporeans, do you approve of what Ah Gong is doing in the story? If you were Ah Seng, would you agree to giving more [of your money] to Ah Gong?"

He ended his speech by stating that PSP does not support the GST bill.

Subsequently, Member of Parliament for Jurong GRC Shawn Huang sought clarifications from Leong, asking whether Leong had considered "other characters" to paint a fuller picture of the situation.

Leong did not address Huang's question, saying that he will share "more episodes" in other sittings in future.

Chee Hong Tat's response

Senior Minister of State for Finance and Transport Chee Hong Tat later rose up to respond to Leong in Mandarin.

He started off by requesting that Leong not take things out of context when telling the story of Ah Gong and Ah Seng.

Chee pointed out that the money that Ah Seng gives Ah Gong is less than what he receives in return.

"If Ah Seng is from the low income bracket, he gets S$4 in return for every S$1 he gives Ah Gong, he said. "If he is from the middle income bracket, he will get S$2 in return for every S$1 he gives Ah Gong."

The amount of money that Ah Gong and Ah Ma have saved up over the years are not for them to spend, he continued, as it is for Ah Seng, his children and generations to come.

50 per cent of the profits from Ah Gong and Ah Ma's investments are for the family, which includes Ah Seng, to use. The other half, according to Chee, is put back into the family's savings in hopes of getting higher returns in future.

The Net Investment Returns Contribution (NIRC) are referred here as Ah Gong and Ah Ma's investments in this analogy.

NIRC comprises up to 50% of the Net Investment Returns (NIR) on the net assets invested by GIC, Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), and Temasek; and, up to 50% of the Net Investment Income (NII) derived from past reserves from the remaining assets.

Chee pointed out that Ah Gong's request that Ah Seng contribute more towards the family is reasonable as he is not asking for the latter to do so immediately -- rather, in a time frame of five to ten years.

Importantly, Chee highlighted about Ah Gong and Ah Ma (grandmother)'s plight, as they are getting on in years.

Chee believed that it is the "right thing to do", for Ah Seng to take care of Ah Gong and Ah Ma, as filial piety is a virtue in Asian societies.

One of the main reasons for the GST hike, as explained by Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Lawrence Wong, was the increased healthcare expenditure due to Singapore's ageing population. 

Chee ended his speech with:

"If Ah Seng asked Ah Gong who he's saving so much money for and why, Ah Gong might mention the name of a Hokkien song "Long Shi Wei Zhe Ni La", [which means] it's all for you."

Top photos from MCI