A training plan for the race ahead

The way ahead is increasingly uncertain and this is reflected in Budget 2017, which emphasises the importance of staying adaptable and open to change.

Singapore is aiming for modest growth of 2 per cent to 3 per cent - above that of many developed economies, including Hong Kong, South Korea and Taiwan. Ours is a mature economy which means we have to accept a slower pace of growth.

Against this backdrop, the Finance Minister addressed the near-term concerns of businesses, workers and households.

At the same time, he charted the course for the medium to long term, laying out measures that will prepare companies large and small for an increasingly digitally driven economy.

Singapore is like an athlete going to run a triathlon, and the Budget is our training plan.

An athlete has to train hard and strategise for the race, while focusing on areas that can best prepare him to be ahead of the pack.

Part of this involves eating the right diet. In the same way, the measures aimed at helping companies scale up and transform will gear our enterprises up for the challenges ahead.

Meanwhile, the Industry Transformation Maps in 23 sectors are like running shoes that grip the track. They cultivate essential partnerships and the collaborative ethos that the business ecosystem needs to thrive in the long term.

Another key message in the Budget was that those who are at the bottom of the ladder are not forgotten.

GST Vouchers, rebates for service and conservancy charges, top-ups to the Community Care Endowment Fund and Medifund and a modest personal income tax rebate are at hand for eligible households, to cushion the impact of any inflationary pressures arising from the impact of the water price hike.

On the social front, I am pleased to see the Budget giving a helping hand to young families through higher housing grants, and more support for those with infants.

Job seekers will welcome the new Attach and Train initiative, which aims to help improve their employment prospects.

 

We are also showing our commitment to controlling climate change, with measures such as the early turnover scheme to encourage people to switch to cleaner vehicles, as well as the carbon tax to be implemented from 2019.

The tone and tenor of the Budget is an endorsement of the Committee on the Future Economy's recommendations, which aim to ensure Singapore remains globally competitive in an increasingly volatile and uncertain world.

In summary, I would say this Budget takes a very targeted approach. It is in some ways a vanilla Budget with no exceptional door gifts. But it is a Budget that would put us on a stable platform as we run the race, at times allowing us to sprint when needed at great speed.

•Mr Saktiandi Supaat is executive vice-president and head of foreign exchange research at Maybank. He is also a Member of Parliament for Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC and a member of the Committee on the Future Economy.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 21, 2017, with the headline 'A training plan for the race ahead'. Print Edition | Subscribe