Singapore Budget 2015: Expect help for 'sandwiched class', families, elderly poor

The long-awaited Jubilee Budget will be delivered in Parliament at 3.30pm today with high expectations that there will be something for all Singaporeans, in line with the nation's 50th birthday and a possible early election.

Analysts have suggested a range of possibilities - from tax reliefs to a one-off cash payout - for the "sandwiched class" that has been squeezed by rising costs.

Senior Minister of State for Finance and Transport Josephine Teo hinted last Saturday that support for families will be an important theme in this year's Budget.

This ranges from help with children's education to caring for elders, Mrs Teo said. The Budget will also continue to strike a balance between looking after the immediate needs of citizens and planning for future generations, she added.

Another key focus will be preparing the country for the future.

While previous Budgets had a slew of incentives aimed at helping businesses raise productivity and pass on gains to their employees, the focus this year is expected to be on long-term measures for training and development, as part of ongoing efforts to cultivate deep skills in the workforce.

Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam, who will present the Budget statement, chairs the SkillsFuture Council. It was formed last September to spearhead a national push towards an integrated system of education, training and career progression.

Barclays economist Leong Wai Ho said that the Budget might outline a new approach to the Government's drive for higher labour productivity.

"At the same time, the broader rhetoric is likely to be more tolerant of a slower pace of growth," he added.

The Budget is also expected to further strengthen social safety nets for the vulnerable, including plans to help the elderly poor.

In his National Day Rally speech last year, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong referred to a new scheme, called Silver Support. Elements of the scheme are likely to include a payout in the form of an annual bonus to low-income Singaporeans aged 65 and above, to help them cope with daily living expenses.

The Government is also expected to endorse key recommendations made by the Central Provident Fund (CPF) advisory panel to revamp the retirement system. These proposals focus on providing CPF members with more choice and flexibility.

The Budget will also lay the foundations for higher health-care spending, said Barclays' Mr Leong, who is expecting more details about the MediShield Life scheme.

Economists expect the Government's coffers to do better, with a modest deficit or surplus for last year, instead of the $1.16-billion deficit that was forecast earlier.

On the spending front, with all the planned measures, economists expect expenditure in this Budget to rise. Credit Suisse said the trend of increased social spending is likely to continue.

A live webcast of the speech will be available on the website www.singaporebudget.gov.sg and the Singapore Budget mobile app, available for download on both the Apple and Android platforms.

The Singapore Association for the Deaf will provide simultaneous sign language interpretation of the speech for the first time in Budget history. This can be accessed on the Budget website and mobile app.

There will also be real-time updates of key announcements on the Ministry of Finance Facebook page and Twitter account.

Members of the public can give their views on the Budget's initiatives via the Budget website or to government feedback unit Reach.

chiaym@sph.com.sg