Ex-GIC economist issued second POFMA correction direction in about a month

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SINGAPORE: The Independent Singapore (TISG) website and Mr Yeoh Lam Keong, a former chief economist of Singapore sovereign wealth fund GIC, have been ordered to correct false and misleading statements about the government’s fiscal surpluses.

This is the second correction order issued to Mr Yeoh in the last five weeks under the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA).

The newer correction path involves two Facebook posts published by Mr Yeoh on November 7, following the passage of a Bill allowing the Goods and Services Tax to be raised in stages over the next two years.

Mr Yeoh wrote that this “seems completely unnecessary at the moment, as we have a S$30 billion structural fiscal surplus for which we have not even begun to publicly delineate clear spending big plans.”

This statement was reproduced by TISG in two separate articles on November 9 and November 12.

The Ministry of Finance (MOF) stated in a media release on Friday (Nov 18): “Mr Yeoh’s statement claims that there are S$30 billion in structural fiscal surpluses available to the Government for spending.” This is not correct.

“Over the last two decades (except for FY2020, which had a significant fiscal deficit due to COVID-19 expenditures), the Government averaged a fiscal balance of S$2.2 billion per year,” the ministry added.

“It is thus false that the government has a ‘S$30 billion structural fiscal surplus’ available for annual spending.”

Recipients of a POFMA correction direction must include a notice alongside the original post or article, with a link to the Government’s clarification.

Mr Yeoh and TISG have added correction notices to the relevant posts and articles.

The Ministry of Finance stated on Friday that the Constitution “clearly defines” the fiscal rules for the government.

“Any public spending that exceeds these fiscal rules means that the government will use more of its previous reserves and leave less for the next generation,” it said.

“Furthermore, the government is unable to freely or unilaterally decide to spend any portion of the past reserves.” Any withdrawal from past reserves requires the President’s approval.”

Mr Yeoh and The Online Citizen website were also issued a correction direction last month after they made false and misleading statements about HDB’s deficits and Singapore’s past reserve levels.

Source: CNA News

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