Principles for Budget 2019 reflect the ‘Singapore way’: Heng Swee Keat [Channel NewsAsia]

Mr Heng rounded up the budget debate in Parliament on 26 Feb.


Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat said that the key principles for Budget 2019 reflect the "Singapore way" and allows people to “do more with less”. 


In rounding up the budget debate in Parliament on Thursday (Feb 28), Mr Heng outlined that the three principles of the "Singapore way" are putting people at the centre of its policies, planning long term while taking an adaptive approach to respond to changing circumstances, and allowing Singaporeans to work in partnership.


He said that these principles have allowed Singapore to achieve "very credible outcomes" in the areas of education, healthcare and policing, despite spending less than what other countries do. 


He elaborated that putting Singaporeans at the centre of the Government’s plans empowers people through education, creates a good environment for families, helps Singaporeans to earn and save enough for retirement, and supports ageing with assurance. 


To ensure young people get a high quality education, Mr Heng said the Government “has been investing more in pre-school to make pre-school education better, more accessible, and affordable especially for the lower income”.


On how the Government builds capacity in workers, Mr Heng thanked MPs for speaking on a common theme of “every work matters” and said he was glad that MP Zainal Sapari and Ang Hin Keen recognised that Budget 2019 is “pro-worker”.



On supporting low-wage workers, Mr Heng said that Government wants to help build their capacity “through upskilling” to enable them to move up the wage ladder.


He explained that through the Workfare enhancements announced this year, and the Progressive Wage Model, the Government helps lower-income workers “upskill and reskill, earn more and save more”.


Mr Heng added that as much as the Government wants to help those who earn less, he stressed that the manner in which this help is extended is important.


“Permanently increasing their capacity to earn more is the most sustainable way to improving their lot in life and helping them support their family members,” he said.

“This is best done by upgrading their skills and improving their chances of getting better paying jobs. What they learn today will be useful for many years down the road, and build a foundation for further learning. In the meantime, we help them take care of their families’ needs, such as bursaries for their children or MediFund for their parents’ hospitalisation bills,” said Mr Heng. 


Mr Heng also highlighted how the Government help seniors stay healthy through the Merdeka Generation Package (MGP). He cited how one of Singapore’s Merdeka Generation whom he met at TV forum expressed appreciation that her expenses would be taken care of with the package.



For the second principle of the Singapore way - long term orientation in planning - Mr Heng said the Government looks ahead to prepare for the various issues that could impact Singapore in the future – ageing, climate change and changing economic trends. 


Mr Heng noted that the first committee on ageing was set in 1982, when the proportion of Singaporeans aged 65 and above was only about 5 per cent.


He added that the Government is looking at various infrastructural plans to protect Singapore from rising sea levels due to climate change, highlighting that the effects of this are projected to hit the country some time between 2050 and 2100.


 “Given the long time horizon, it is difficult to project these spending needs now. Nonetheless, we are planning early, seeing what we can do, and will work out the resourcing accordingly,” said Mr Heng.


“Our plans span many years – putting in place the right infrastructure, charting the course of our economy, and steadily building up our capabilities,” he added.  


Mr Heng also noted that there are significant shifts in the global economy, with shifting supply chains and global value chains becoming more knowledge-intensive.  


But he said that Singapore is well placed to ride on these changes.


“As a regional hub in many areas, such as finance, professional services and logistics, we are well-positioned as a base for businesses to capture the growing regional demand for such services. We also continue to have a strong manufacturing base, despite increasing competition from other economies,” said Mr Heng.


But he stressed that Singapore must push ahead to strengthen its position as a Global-Asia node of technology, innovation and enterprise.


“We will continue investing in research, innovation and enterprise development, and support our entrepreneurs and businesses to boldly venture into new markets. This will bring new opportunities to our people and firms,” Mr Heng added.



In outlining the importance of importance of the third principle of the Singapore way - building strong parnerships - Mr Heng cited Singapore’s tripartite arrangement between the Government, firms and unions as a “unique strength”.


He added that Singapore must “build on this” and strengthen the partnership between the three parties.


Mr Heng then cited ST Engineering’s aerospace sector as an example of how a tripartite partnership can lead to positive outcomes.


He noted how the company has been investing in smart maintenance, repair and operations (MRO) initiatives at its hangars, to adopt data analytics, additive manufacturing and automation, to ride on the wave of Industry 4.0.


Mr Heng added that he was encouraged to hear that the company’s union-management Training Council worked closely with the NTUC Learning Hub to customise the SkillsFuture Digital Workplace course for her workers, to familiarise her workers with digital technologies, new work processes and automation.


Mr Heng said that more than 200 members of staff attended the course in 2018, with another 600 expected to attend the course in 2019.


“I am glad to see ST Engineering building enterprise capabilities and deepening worker skill sets in tandem,” said Mr Heng. “This is the type of positive outcomes for workers, businesses and the Government, which I hope we all strive to achieve.”


In concluding his speech, Mr Heng highlighted that the Bicentennial is a good time to reflect on what being an independent, sovereign nation means.


“It means fiercely protecting the precious freedom that we have to chart our own destiny, even as our relationships with our neighbours and the world change,” said Mr Heng.


He added that Singaporeans should appreciate that the country has its own unique way of solving problems – the Singapore way - and “need not be pressured to conform to theories which sound fashionable but do not work” for the country.

Source: Channel NewsAsia

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