THE latest Singapore Budget was prominently reported in Taiwan yesterday, with many Taiwanese heaping praise on Singapore's generous measures aimed at cushioning the impact of rising costs.
News of the $1.8 billion surplus-sharing package even made it to the front page of the mass-circulation daily, the United Daily News, a rare move for the Taiwanese media, which tends to focus heavily on local news.
In Hong Kong, where the government is slated to announce its Budget on Feb 27, newspapers also carried related reports, even though the coverage was smaller in scale.
The extensive coverage in Taiwan comes ahead of the island's presidential elections on March 22, which is expected to be dominated by issues such as the island's sluggish economy, rising inflation and a widening income gap.
The Taiwanese media has taken a special interest in the Budget announcement, because Singapore is often regarded as a benchmark for comparison by the Taiwanese.
Economists quoted by the United Daily News said that Taiwan's presidential candidates could take a leaf out of Singapore's book.
The main opposition Kuomintang nominee Ma Ying-jeou is leading Mr Frank Hsieh of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party, according to polls.
National Cheng Kung University professor Hsieh Wen-jen lauded Singapore's 'brilliant' moves, scrapping estate duty and giving out $380 million worth of personal income tax rebates.
By making these changes at the same time, it could deflect criticism that the abolition of estate duty benefited only the rich, Prof Hsieh told the United Daily News.
The bonanza Budget triggered soul-searching among Taiwanese.
'Looking at Singapore, I can't help but think about ourselves... Why is it that they can do it, but we can't?' a Taiwanese reader wrote in the United Daily News.
Taiwan's economic officials said that Singapore's 'company style' of governance and handing out of dividends could work only in small countries.
But some observers blame the Taiwanese government's pre-occupation with politics at the expense of economics. Last year, Taiwan posted a budget deficit of more than NT$100 billion (S$4.5 billion).
'Singapore's Government has proven its economic ability, while the newly elected South Korean president has pledged to focus on the economy,' said the Commercial Times in a commentary yesterday. 'The future Taiwanese president should ask himself: How long more must ordinary Taiwanese put up with all these?'
Over in Hong Kong, a newspaper commentary noted that the handouts from the Singapore Government were exactly what analysts and lawmakers had been calling for in the city's upcoming Budget.
The Hong Kong Economic Journal noted, too, that Singapore's abolishment of the estate tax validated Hong Kong's decision to do so in 2006.
This, it said, reflected both cities' commitment to positioning themselves as offshore tax havens and significant global asset management centres.