ministry of health

Mr Heng Aik Jin calls for society to step in when personal efforts fail, by increasing the Government’s share of health-care spending to 6 per cent to 8 per cent of gross domestic product (“Society must step in when personal efforts fail”; Thursday).

Singapore’s health-care system is one of the best in the world. In 2000, the last time the World Health Organisation (WHO) ranked health-care systems, our system was deemed sixth-best in the world.

Recent WHO figures also reveal that we have the fourth-best life expectancy rate in the world (“S’pore ranks world No. 4 in longevity”; May 27).

Spending more money does not necessarily improve health care; it is more crucial to spend wisely.

Take Britain for example. It provides free health care through the National Health System, and its health spending accounts for 9.3 per cent of its gross domestic product. The corresponding figure for Singapore is about 4 per cent. Yet, the WHO ranked Britain’s health-care system No. 18 in the world.

This may come as a surprise to someone struggling with high medical bills. But things look different when one sees the big picture.

If our Government were to raise its health-care expenditure, where would it get the money?

It could reduce spending elsewhere or raise taxes, but the latter means we will end up paying higher goods and services, income, property and corporate taxes.

For comparison, Britain’s version of our goods and services tax – called the Value Added Tax – is 20 per cent.

Do we really want to pay more taxes? Don’t forget that we are competing against Hong Kong, where tax rates are low.

Raising taxes discourages investments and talented individuals from coming here. This will result in higher unemployment and slower economic growth.

For example, the unemployment rate in the highly taxed euro zone is 12.2 per cent, compared with around 2 per cent in Singapore.

In the United States, states with low income taxes or none at all generally have lower unemployment rates than those with high taxes.

To sum up, there are trade-offs in getting the Government to increase health spending – in the form of slower growth, more taxes and higher unemployment rates. Do we want these when we already have one of the best health-care systems in the world? I think not.

Tan Keng Soon