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Singapore Budget 2014: Lessons from Ukraine for a small state like Singapore

Published on Mar 5, 2014 11:12 PM

Budget Talk: What are MPs and observers saying about the Budget debate outside Parliament? We sum up some of the topics being discussed on social media.

A country half-way across the globe was a focus during Wednesday's Budget debate, alongside issues closer to the hearts of Singaporeans, like jobs and cost of living.

Foreign Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam, during the Committee of Supply debate on his ministry's Budget, spoke at length about the lessons Singapore can draw from the unfolding crisis in Ukraine, including how a smaller country like Ukraine can become a pawn when squeezed between two big powers or blocs.

The sobering lessons gleaned from Kiev resonated with Members of Parliament, including Acting Manpower Minister Tan Chuan-Jin who succinctly summed up the discussion in a tweet: "Russia-Ukraine: Any lessons for kucing kurap Singapore?"

In a separate post on Facebook, Mr Tan, who is an MP for Marine Parade GRC, said: "Even while we debate our budget and focus on issues of the day, let us not forget about where we are in the world and what lessons we draw."

The former army general added: "When I was in The Singapore Army, in each of the units I was at, I will often have a dialogue and ask my new soldiers and commanders as to our reason for defending and why it mattered. Some felt that we will just 'tahan' until the UN came to our rescue. Some felt that it was a lost cause because we were too small. Though most only see a fraction of our capability, many eventually do believe that we should be able to and believe that we must."

"That we can and will is probably another topic for another day. But for small countries, being able and having the will to defend what is one's own, is an imperative first step."



Workers' Party member and Aljunied GRC MP Chen Show Mao, meanwhile, pondered on what Nominated MP Laurence Lien said about opportunities and possibilities during the Budget debate this week.

Mr Chen wrote in a Facebook post on Wednesday: "In his parliamentary speech on the Budget, NMP Laurence Lien pointed out the difference between our seizing 'opportunities' and seeing 'possibilities' - seeing possibilities in Singapore and Singaporeans and what we can achieve together.

"I think of the many things I have learnt from Mr Lien's parliamentary speeches during his term as NMP, and his articles, and wonder about the possibilities of more Singaporeans coming forward to share their ideas and do what they can, for Singapore."

Mr Lien, who called for more optimism and trust in Singaporeans, had said in Parliament: "If we think of Singapore as a sampan, we will not think of possibilities. We cannot go out to explore and conquer the world in a sampan."



MP Patrick Tay (Nee Soon GRC), meanwhile, invited feedback on his Facebook on a topic he planned to raise during the Committee of Supply debate on the Budget which will stretch into next week. Referring to stay-at-home mums, he wrote: "Will be voicing for SAHMs next week during Committee of Supply in Parliament."



Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, in a Facebook post on Wednesday, said he was glad this year's Budget has been well-received. "MPs from both sides of the House supported the Budget, especially the Pioneer Generation Package. They shared stories of their own parents or grandparents, who belonged to the special generation which built Singapore. They made useful suggestions to improve the Package and other Budget initiatives. We will consider their ideas carefully."

But he cautioned: "The govt can afford the Pioneer Generation Package because we have been careful with our finances. But govt spending is going up - on healthcare, infrastructure, and an ageing population. We are alright for the next few years. Beyond that, we must think about raising more revenues.

He added: "We must never fall into the same hole as so many other countries, spending more than they earn, dragging down the economy and burdening future generations. If we keep our economy vibrant, and live within our means, we can continue providing assurance to all, while keeping ours a nation of opportunities."