Budget will contain measures to help Singaporeans and businesses: Chan Chun Sing

Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing speaks during a media briefing on Jan 16, 2020. ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH PHOTO: ST

SINGAPORE - Despite a surge in investments into Singapore in 2019, external downside risks remain and more must be done to shore up domestic productivity, said Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing on Thursday (Jan 16).

For companies and Singaporeans concerned about being left behind, the Government will also announce measures in the next Budget to help them upskill, reskill and seize new opportunities, he added.

He was speaking at a media briefing on the ministry's year-in-review and outlook for 2020.

Cautioning against complacency, Mr Chan said the investment climate remains challenging and competitive. "While the numbers are very good from last year, it doesn't mean we have won every investment that we desired," he said.

Referring to the phase one trade deal signed on Wednesday (Jan 15) between the US and China, he said there remain key differences between the two countries - from how they use technology to the way they organise their economic, production, research and development systems.

Ongoing US-China tensions and technological disruption have also led to shifting supply chains, he said, adding that whether Singapore can play an important role in these depend on how it positions itself.

Another potential disruptor he highlighted is the base erosion and profit-shifting initiative, or BEPS 2.0.

Its two pillars - one giving jurisdictions new taxing rights, and the other ensuring a minimum tax on foreign profits - if widely adopted, will significantly impact how countries compete for investments, and how corporate profits are allocated and taxed, Mr Chan said.

There are also domestic challenges to contend with in Singapore, from improving the competitiveness of firms to upgrading the skills of older workers, he added.

Highlighting the many new opportunities in sectors such as agri-tech, food science, precision and additive manufacturing and robotics, he said it is not enough for Singapore to be part of the global value chain - it has to entrench itself so that it is not easily displaced.

To this end, the Government will announce schemes during Budget 2020 to help companies scale up and digitalise, and "bespoke programmes" for them to grow sustainably, he said.

"In the past, enterprise transformation was about giving grants and subsidies. We must redesign processes and operating models, and spare no effort in enterprise transformation, company by company," he said.

He also gave the assurance that there will be measures to upskill and reskill workers in their 40s and 50s to support lifelong learning for lifelong employability.

"It's not easy for mid-career professionals to make the switch as they have responsibilities," he said. "We have to structure the training in a way that is easier for them.

"Our promise to everyone is this - never mind if you're unable, so long as you are willing."

The Straits Times will be providing live coverage as Mr Heng announces the details in Parliament.

There will be livestreaming of his speech and a live blog on our website, as well as a Budget microsite and updates on our Facebook and Twitter accounts.

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