SINGAPORE, Feb 15 (AFP): Help for low wage earners and the elderly but no tax cuts will be offered by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong when he unveils a "people's budget" Friday ahead of a widely expected election, analysts say.
Thanks to a robust economy in 2005, the government is expected to report a budget surplus that could well exceed one billion Singapore dollars (614 million US) for the fiscal year to March, some five times more than the 210 million dollar surplus Lee, who is also the finance minister, forecast in last year's budget speech.
"With an eye on the coming election, which is widely speculated to be soon after the budget release, the coming budget is shaping up as a people's budget," OCBC Securities economist Suan Teck Kin said.
Lee, the son of independence leader Lee Kuan Yew, has yet to secure his own mandate since inheriting the job when Goh Chok Tong stepped down in August 2004. By law, polls must be held by June 2007 but are widely expected to be held this year.
Lee's People's Action Party (PAP), which has ruled Singapore since it became independent from Malaysia in 1965, holds all but two of the elected constituency-based seats in parliament.
Singapore's opposition plays a marginal political role, with its leaders hounded by lawsuits and their activities curbed by strict laws against protest rallies and what they say is a lack of access to the mainstream media.
Southeast Asia's wealthiest economy grew 6.0 per cent last year, better than expected, and the official growth target for 2006 is 3.0-5.0 per cent but private-sector economists are forecasting a faster expansion rate.
"Going by the proposed measures that have been splashed in the last few weeks, (the budget) looks to be a spectacular one in terms of the dollars and cents involved," Song Seng Wun, regional economist with CIMB-GK research house, said recently.