Addressing a recent political meeting, Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said that “… raising taxes is not a matter of whether, but when.” That statement has resulted in a great deal of speculation.
Which taxes will be raised? When will the rate hike be implemented? More importantly, what will be the impact on ordinary Singaporeans and on the country’s economy?
Back in 2015, Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam had said that the revenue measures taken by the government were sufficient for the planned spending till the end of the decade. At that time, he was the country’s finance minister.
The government was quick to point out that there was no contradiction between the Prime Minister’s speech and the earlier statement of the Tharman Shanmugaratnam.
So, will there be a tax hike or not? The ministry of finance has subsequently issued a statement titled “Did the government change its position on raising taxes during this term of government?” It says that “Any decision to raise taxes will not be taken lightly….”
This seems to indicate that a tax hike is in the offing, but not immediately. If the government says that it needs to raise taxes, the first question that Singaporeans will ask is what is the money is needed for.
It’s useful to remember that Singapore has a balanced budget. This implies that revenues must be equal to or exceed expenditure. In fact, by adopting a prudent spending policy, the government has ensured that the country has a surplus budget.
Source: Singapore government budget 2017
The table reproduced above shows that there was a surplus of S$5.18 billion in FY2016 and an estimated surplus of S$1.91 billion in FY17. In fact, Singapore’s constitution requires that the budget remains balanced over each term of government.
If the budget is balanced, why should taxes be raised?
The government needs money for a host of different projects. It has said that annual spending on pre-schools is set to double to S$1.7 billion by 2022. Additionally, the country’s workers need to be reskilled so that they continue to contribute meaningfully to their employers and to the overall economy.
The country’s infrastructure also requires vast amounts. A High Speed Rail is being planned to link Singapore to Kuala Lumpur. The recent SMRT train collision that left 25 people injured highlights the need for investments to upgrade the country’s transport network. This was only the second time that an accident of this magnitude has taken place in the train system’s 30-year history.
Funds are also required to increase the volumes that the country’s seaport and air services can handle. The projects that need financing include Terminal 5 at Changi, which is regarded as among the world’s busiest and best airports.
Health services for the elderly are another area that will require additional resources. Currently, about 440,000 of the nation’s population of 5.6 million is over the age of 65. By 2030, this number is expected to increase to 900,000. Consequently, the government will have to allocate more funds towards adding to the existing healthcare facilities in the country.
The country has a fairly attractive tax structure. Income tax rates are reasonable with the highest slab being 22%. However, this rate is applicable only for those who earn more than S$320,000 per year. For those who earn less, tax rates are much lower.
A person earning, say, S$120,000 would pay only S$7,950 in income tax. That’s an effective rate of a little less than 7%. That leaves plenty of scope for levying more taxes.
There are no capital gains or inheritance taxes in Singapore. But there is a goods and services tax (GST). This was first introduced in 1994 at a rate of 3%. In 2003, it was increased to 4% and then to 5% in 2004. In July 2007, the GST rate was raised to 7%. It has remained at this level since then.
Analysts say that the GST rate may be raised when the government decides to implement its plan to raise taxes.
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This report documents the development and applications of the GEM Building Taxonomy.
The purpose of the GEM Building Taxonomy is to describe and classify buildings in a uniform manner as a key step towards assessing their seismic risk. Criteria for development of the GEM Building Taxonomy were that the Taxonomy be relevant to seismic performance of different construction types; be comprehensive yet simple; be collapsible; adhere to principles that are familiar to the range of users; and ultimately be extensible to non-buildings and other hazards. The Taxonomy was developed in conjunction with other GEM researchers and builds on the knowledge base from other taxonomies, including the EERI and IAEE World Housing Encyclopedia, PAGER-STR, and HAZUS.
The Taxonomy is organized as a series of expandable tables, which contain information pertaining to various building attributes. Each attribute describes a specific characteristic of an individual building or a class of buildings that could potentially affect their seismic performance.
The report illustrates the practical use of the Taxonomy by discussing example case studies, in which the building-specific characteristics are mapped directly using GEM taxonomic attributes and the corresponding taxonomic string is constructed for that building.
The Taxonomy is accompanied by TaxTweb an online graphical tool for editing GEM Taxonomy strings. A companion online Glossary provides both text and graphic description for various Taxonomy attributes.
The GEM Building Taxonomy Initiative
A common language to describe building stock worldwide
It is a very comprehensive global classification scheme for buildings, able to capture all different building types that exist around the globe, and it is accompanied by tools that allow you to easily work with the building taxonomy.
It is being used as a basis for the global exposure database and the global consequences database, as well as by the inventory data capture tools, for adding new information on buildings to the OpenQuake platform. But it can be used beyond GEM; it facilitates global collaboration and growth of our joint knowledge on the diversity of seismic vulnerability of all the buildings that exist around the globe.
The project is led by Charles Scawthorn and Svetlana Brzev. They have a few fixed collaborators such as Andrew Charleson, Luke Allen, Marjorie Green’s team of the EERI World Housing Encyclopedia and Kishor Jaiswal. Many other experts, structural engineers and others from around the globe have also contributed to the shaping and development of the taxonomy. See also the Building Taxonomy page on GEM Nexus.
See below the list of contributors to the Glossary and the GEM-EERI Building Reports.
In addition to being a scheme for classification of buildings worldwide, the GEM Building Taxonomy also allows for creation of a unique description (code) for a building or building typology, based on the 13 different attributes that correspond to specific building characteristics which affect its seismic performance.
The GEM Building Taxonomy consists of:
13 main attributes (described in an overview table)
the different various building characteristics that can be chosen for each attribute (described in 13 attribute-related tables)
a glossary defining all attributes and building characteristics and illustrating them with pictures and images where possible.
The Building Taxonomy ‘genome’:
Direction – the orientation of building(s) with different lateral load-resisting systems in two principal horizontal directions of the building plan which are perpendicular to one another
Material of the lateral load-resisting system - e.g. "masonry" or "wood"
Lateral load-resisting system - the structural system that provides resistance against horizontal earthquake forces through vertical and horizontal components, e.g. "wall", "moment frame", etc.
Height - building height above ground in terms of the number of storeys (e.g. a building is 3-storey high); this attribute also includes information on the number of basements (if present) and the ground slope
Date of construction or retrofit - the year in which the building construction or retrofit was completed
Occupancy - the type of activity (function) that the building is used for
Building position within a block - the position of a building within a block of buildings (e.g. a "detached building" is not attached to any other building)
Shape of the building plan - e.g. L-shape, rectangular shape, etc.
Structural irregularity - features of a building's structural arrangement that are irregular; such as one story is significantly higher than other stories, or the building has an irregular shape. Also the change of the structural system or materials that produce known vulnerability during an earthquake fall into this category. Re-entrant corner and soft storey are examples.
Exterior walls - material of exterior walls (building enclosure), e.g. "masonry", "glass", etc.
Roof - this attribute describes the roof shape, material of the roof covering, structural system supporting the roof covering, and the roof-wall connection. For example, the roof shape may be "pitched with gable ends", roof covering could be "tile", and the roof system may be "wooden roof structure with light infill or covering".
Floor - describes the floor material, floor system type, and floor-wall connection. For example, the floor material may be "concrete", and the floor system may be "cast in-place beamless reinforced concrete slab".
Foundation - that part of the construction where the base of the building meets the ground. The foundation transmits loads from the building to the underlying soil. For example, a shallow foundation supports walls and columns in a building for hard soil conditions, and a deep foundation needs to be provided for buildings located in soft soil areas.
Collapsible. A taxonomy is collapsible if taxonomic groups with different levels of details and significance can be combined and/or compacted and the resulting combinations still distinguish differences in seismic performance, while acknowledging some loss of precision.
Detailed. The taxonomy includes all features relevant to the seismic performance of a building located anywhere in the world. It aims to capture all aspects of seismic performance and estimation of possible losses for an entire building, including building dimensions and non-structural components.
Distinguishes differences in seismic performance. The taxonomy distinguishes earthquake-resistant structural systems from non-earthquake resistant systems, including the “before” and “after” states of common seismic retrofits and between “ductile" and "non-ductile” systems.
Flexible and extensible. All future data needs can’t be foreseen, so the taxonomy lends itself to changes and future extensions – i.e., be ‘growable’, attributes can be modified or added, for example to include new building typologies, and new attributes or characteristics can be added for example to facilitate use in a multi-hazard context.
International in scope. As far as possible the taxonomy is made appropriate for any region of the world. It does not privilege any one region but aims to be technically and culturally acceptable to all regions.
User-friendly. The taxonomy is meant to be straightforward, intuitive, and as easy to use as possible by both those collecting data, those arranging for its analysis and all end users.
We look forward to your comments and suggestions! You can add comments below each glossary term. We also welcome contributions in terms of the photographs illustrating glossary terms. For more information on how to contribute visit the GEM Building Taxonomy Working Group in Nexus or write to the GEM Building Taxonomy team at [email protected]
Files and Images of GEM Glossary are released under the terms of Creative Commons Attributon 3.0 Unported license CC-BY. This is a license that fits with the spirit of this collaborative effort, and allows others to build on your contribution.
This taxonomy is different from the majority of existing structural taxonomies used for seismic risk assessments; it is seen as the Next Generation Taxonomy (NGT) by its developers. The taxonomy data model is in line with modern Building Information Modelling (BIM) approaches and tools which are being used in the construction industry.
You can access the latest (preliminary) version of the GEM Building Taxonomy on GEM Nexus and use the Glossary.
Click here for the overview table of the GEM Building Taxonomy (V2). From here you can click on to the 13 sub-tables and the Glossary for definitions of each characteristic.
Click here for the latest (draft) report of the GEM Building Taxonomy.
Click here for the main page of the Glossary providing access to 400 definitions.
Create and share Building Reports of buildings near you
Provide feedback on the latest version of the GEM Building Taxonomy Report
Provide feedback on Glossary definitions
Send in photos and other illustrations to improve the Glossary