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Future perfect

Budget 2017 unveiled bold plans to transform Singapore, building on suggestions from the Committee on the Future Economy. Charissa Yong looks at 12 key measures to help people adapt and businesses transform in a challenging landscape.

1. PARENTING

• Four extra weeks of unpaid infant-care leave for public servants.

• Larger CPF Housing Grants to buy a resale flat.

• 1,000 more infant-care places by 2020.

• Three new Ministry of Education kindergartens will open in Punggol in 2018.


2. VIBRANT NEIGHBOURHOODS

• $90 million will be set aside to revitalise hawker centres. This will help pay for centralised dishwashing, automated tray-return systems and cashless payment systems. These will be progressively implemented in hawker centres over the next few years.

• Community groups and schools can organise events and activities at hawker centres.

• Four newly renovated public libraries will be reopened this year in Sengkang, Bukit Panjang, Tampines and Bedok. They will have facilities that cater to each community, such as workspaces for entrepreneurs and a storytelling room for children.


3. SKILLS AND JOBS

• Attach and Train programme for workers to go on training and work attachments. The Government will chip in with a training allowance of up to $4,000 a month for these workers.

• More wage subsidies for professional, manager, executive and technician (PMET) job seekers. Under the Professional Conversion Programme that helps PMETs switch sectors and jobs, the Government subsidises 70 per cent of a worker’s salary. The cap has been doubled from $2,000 to $4,000.

• Employers will be offered higher wage subsidies under the Career Support Programme for 18 months, up from 12 months. Also, the minimum salary of eligible workers will be lowered from $4,000 to $3,600 per month for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

• A task force has been formed to study how freelance workers can be better protected.

• 13,000 new jobs will be created in the air and sea transport sectors by 2025, and 8,000 new jobs in the public transport sector by 2030.


4. DEFENCE

• A $900 million Singapore Armed Forces training ground the size of Bishan will give soldiers realistic combat experience.

• A new Defence Cyber Organisation to better defend military networks against cyber attacks.

• A robotics laboratory will be set up in the DSO National Laboratories to design, build and test robots such as unmanned ground vehicles armed with machine guns.


5. WATER AND THE ENVIRONMENT

• Water price hike of 30 per cent to be implemented in two phases, from July.

• New carbon tax from 2019, so Singapore can go green.

• 50 hybrid and 60 electric buses will be added to the roads, as the Land Transport Authority expands its trials involving green vehicles. The plan is to have three bus routes fully run by electric buses.

• Diesel vehicles will be taxed more under a new Vehicular Emissions Scheme from next year, aimed at reducing carbon dioxide emissions and other pollutants to create cleaner air.


6. INFRASTRUCTURE

• $700 million worth of infrastructure projects brought forward to boost the economy.

• MRT operators have a new reliability target for 2017: Trains are to travel an average of 300,000km before a delay occurs. Last year, trains travelled 174,000km on average before encountering a delay of more than five minutes.

• The Bukit Panjang LRT will be overhauled with new trains, a new power rail and a new signalling system.

• The waiting time for 1,000 new Build-to-Order flats in non-mature estates will get shorter. The wait will be 2.5 years compared with the current waiting time of three to four years.

• Elderly home buyers seeking smaller Housing Board flats will be given help to buy their new homes through a deferred down payment scheme and a new temporary loan scheme.


7. SMART NATION

• A Cybersecurity Professional Scheme will begin in July to attract cyber security experts to the public sector, and to develop and retain them.

• Punggol North will be a new enterprise district where digital and cyber security industries can thrive.

• By the middle of this year, transferring funds to a colleague or stallholder can be done on a mobile phone without having to enter a bank account number under a Central Addressing Scheme.


8. BUSINESS AND ECONOMY

• $80 million SMEs Go Digital scheme to help small companies use more technology.

• $600 million International Partnership Fund to help companies go overseas.

• SMEs will get more chances to take part in government projects. For example, the Government may call separate tenders for different parts of larger projects, giving smaller companies an opportunity to participate.

• Government schemes to support start-ups will be unied under an umbrella called Startup SG. Among other measures, a work pass scheme known as EntrePass will be enhanced, for foreign entrepreneurs keen to start businesses in Singapore.

• Unions, employers and government agencies are working on Industry Transformation Maps to transform sectors of the economy and make them more productive.

• One-off personal income tax rebate of 20 per cent, capped at $500

• $2.4 billion to implement the Committee on the Future Economy’s strategies.

• Central Provident Fund (CPF) members will be able to opt to receive escalating payouts under the CPF Life national annuity scheme from next January.

• A new CPF Retirement Planning Service will also be offered to all CPF members who turn 54 this year.

  • BY THE NUMBERS

    $25,200
    Wage support over 12 months for PMETs aged 40 to 49 who are made redundant or are unemployed for six months

    $42,000
    Maximum wage subsidies over 18 months for employers who hire retrenched older PMETs

     $4,000
    Maximum monthly training allowance under the Attach and Train programme, where workers can join companies on attachments without having to be hired 

    8,000
    New jobs to be created in the public transport sector by 2030 

    $50m
    For more sports facilities in neighbourhoods by 2020 

    $90m
    To spruce up hawker centres 

    $4b
    To be spent on water infrastructure from 2017 to 2021


9. SECURITY

• Anti-drug social media campaigns for youth, as well as anti-drug programmes in the Institute of Technical Education, polytechnics and universities.

• Security for buildings and events will be tightened with new laws this year to combat terror.


10. VERTICAL FARMING

• The newly announced Farm Transformation Map looks at how farms can overcome the lack of space. Farms may go upwards into the sky, downwards into the ocean, and even be within buildings.


11. SOCIAL SERVICES

• A fresh master plan to support people with disabilities and their caregivers. This includes a new disability caregiver support centre, slated to be ready next year.

• $160 million to go towards community mental health efforts, including public education on mental health issues.

• Doctors and pre-school teachers will be trained to spot children who are not hitting their developmental milestones, so that they get help earlier.


12. SCHOOLS

• Polytechnics and the Institute of Technical Education will take in more students based on talents and interests, rather than based on grades alone. The Early Admissions Exercise will admit up to 15 per cent of the polytechnic intake from next year, up from 12.5 per cent now. The increase is similar for the ITE admissions exercise.

• From 2019, 20 per cent of places in secondary schools will be kept for students with no afliation priority.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 11, 2017, with the headline 'Future perfect'. Print Edition | Subscribe