President Tony Tan Keng Yam gives go-ahead for Budget 2017

President Tony Tan Keng Yam gave the Budget the green light yesterday, clearing the way for the Government to carry out its spending plans for the new financial year.
President Tony Tan Keng Yam gave the Budget the green light yesterday, clearing the way for the Government to carry out its spending plans for the new financial year.PHOTO: MCI

SINGAPORE - President Tony Tan Keng Yam gave Budget 2017 the green light on Thursday (March 16), clearing the way for the Government to carry out its spending plans for the new financial year starting on April 1.

Dr Tan's assent comes a week after spending plans by the various ministries were approved in Parliament over eight days of extensive debate.

The plans set out how much the Government can spend, and on what items.

In all, total government expenditure, including special transfers, for the year will be $75.07 billion.

In a Facebook post on Thursday, Dr Tan said he had reached the decision after receiving advice from the Council of Presidential Advisers (CPA). Both Dr Tan and the CPA were briefed by officials from the Finance Ministry earlier this month.

The President noted that he and the CPA concurred that Budget 2017 is unlikely to draw on the nation's past reserves. This is because Budget 2017 is expected to have a surplus of $1.9 billion.

Dr Tan also explained that the discretionary power the Elected President wields in the Budget process is something unique to Singapore.

"It is a constitutional safeguard to ensure that any expenditure drawing on our past reserves will need the concurrence of the President," he said.

"This institution of the Elected Presidency and CPA ensures that Singapore will always adopt a prudent approach of fiscal sustainability and financial discipline when it comes to planning the nation's budget."

This is the last time Dr Tan is signing off on the Budget, before his term ends on Aug 31.

In his post on Thursday, he noted that Budget 2017 was about preparing Singapore for a future fraught with change.

"It is not a roadmap with defined checkpoints, but more like a compass to help us navigate the uncertainties ahead," he said.

The way forward is unpredictable and challenging - countries around the world are becoming more insular, and this could impact the global economy, slowing trade and investment, he said.

But technology will continue to be a catalyst for growth, and companies and people here need to be equipped so that they can "embrace technology" and grow, he said.

Dr Tan also said Singapore had to set aside resources in important areas for future generations, so that "our children and children's children can continue to live in a quality environment and a caring, cohesive society".

"I am confident that with this right spirit, we can progress as a nation and move forward together as a people," he added.