Budget 2016 'is but one step in a longer journey' for Singapore

Meet Mr Sundaram Velosamy, 52, and Mr Ong Moh Hong, 68. The two, who work in logistics company Pan Asia Logistics, were singled out as role models for mentoring and lifelong learning by Mr Heng yesterday. SEE TOP OF THE NEWS A6 Meet Mr Sundaram Velos
Meet Mr Sundaram Velosamy, 52, and Mr Ong Moh Hong, 68. The two, who work in logistics company Pan Asia Logistics, were singled out as role models for mentoring and lifelong learning by Mr Heng yesterday. PHOTO: TIFFANY GOH FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

Larger goal is to make every S'porean a winner in the long run, says Heng as he wraps up debate

Parliament yesterday wrapped up the debate on the Government's Budget, with Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat saying it signalled the country's determination to transform its economy for the future and keep Singapore thriving.

Rounding up the debate in which 53 MPs spoke over three days, he said that while the Budget was focused on businesses, especially help for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), this would lead to better jobs for workers.

Budget 2016's support for seniors through Silver Support payouts was also about helping the families taking care of them.

And its measures for the young, from pre-school subsidies to KidStart for those from low-income homes, will enable them to seize opportunities, build good careers and, in turn, support their loved ones.

The Budget, Mr Heng said, is "our first step in our journey towards SG100". To embark on this journey, companies have to transform themselves for long-term growth, and workers have to continually learn skills that the world needs.

And everyone should look out and care for one another as a community, he added.

"It is not possible for the Government to keep handing out goodies to everyone, year after year. Instead, each Budget must build on the previous ones to carry forward the momentum to future Budgets."

People should not assess the Budget just by how much they stand to gain, as the larger goal is "to make every Singaporean a winner in the long run", Mr Heng said.

He added: "When we invest in our young, to help them maximise their potential and seize opportunities, we are helping to ensure they will have the means to support their loved ones in their retirement. And when we keep our tax burden low, especially for the middle-income, everyone benefits."

Mr Heng noted that this year's Budget is tilted towards helping SMEstackle short-term challenges without getting in the way of changes for them to stay competitive.

In fact, he added, Budget 2016 marks a move to the next phase of Singapore's restructuring journey through the Industry Transformation Programme, which adopts a more targeted approach in helping companies. Several MPs had lauded it over the past two days.

Innovation must be pervasive, he said, noting that the new SG Innovate will connect start-ups to funds and help bring solutions to market.

Singapore also has to create the right jobs, develop the right skills and enable the right match between the two. Businesses and workers have a part to play - investing in staff training and tapping the SkillsFuture scheme.

Several MPs had, in the past two days, noted that Singapore's spending needs will rise in the coming years but revenue growth will slow.

Mr Heng said this means Singapore must build a vibrant economy and grow its revenues, spend prudently and right, and design a fiscal system that is fair and progressive.

The road ahead will be bumpy and full of unknowns - both good and bad, he added, calling on Singaporeans to work together, and draw on their spirit of enterprise and caring for one another.

"The purpose of this journey is to journey together, and to reach our destination together as one united cohesive people," he said. "We must look out and care for one another as we journey."

He added: "There are many innovations ahead of us that we cannot yet imagine, many personal and shared triumphs, many moments of humanity, unity and beauty that will keep defining our Singapore."

The House also debated plans for the Home Affairs and Law ministries yesterday. It will discuss plans for the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade and Industry ministries today.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 07, 2016, with the headline 'Budget 'is but one step in a longer journey''. Print Edition | Subscribe