Govt tackling slowdown even as it builds for future: Heng

In 2020, it will also boost aid for businesses to transform and help workers get new skills, says DPM

Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat will announce the Budget in February 2020.
Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat will announce the Budget in February 2020.PHOTO: BUSINESS TIMES

As the Government builds for the longer term, it is also looking at measures to tackle the economic slowdown, said Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat.

In a message released by the People's Action Party (PAP) on New Year's Eve, he acknowledged Singaporeans' concerns about the sluggish domestic economy and growing global uncertainty.

"We are committed to investing in and creating opportunities for Singaporeans to make a better life, and ensuring that no one is left behind if they put in effort," said Mr Heng, who is the ruling party's first assistant secretary-general and the Finance Minister.

Mr Heng, who will announce the Budget next month, said that in 2020, the Government will also step up support for businesses to transform and help workers acquire new skills, plus support families and care for seniors.

Mr Heng's year-end message to Singaporeans on behalf of the party is a first, and it reflects his standing as the leader of the PAP's fourth-generation (4G) team and the presumptive future prime minister.

Traditionally, only Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong - the party's secretary-general - gives a New Year message.

Mr Heng, in his message, noted that the PAP's mission is to build a fair and just society, with the benefits of progress spread widely to all. Generations of PAP leaders and members have served with conviction, compassion, integrity and distinction, he added.

"We have always done what is right by Singaporeans, for Singaporeans. The 4G leadership will do the same. We will continue to win and honour the trust and support of Singaporeans, with all our heart and strength."

Reflecting on the past year, he highlighted sharper political polarisation and social unrest in different parts of the world, with people driven apart by differences of race, religion, class or generation.

These divisions feed distrust and suspicion, hurting societies and their people, he said.

Singapore must not allow differences to divide society, but instead harness its diversity as a strength, he added.


Mr Heng also said he is glad that the Singapore Together movement, which he launched last June to work more closely with Singaporeans to shape policies and the country's future, is gaining momentum.

"We have heard the concerns and aspirations of Singaporeans. We engaged our people on what we want to achieve for our country," he said.

"More importantly, we are working with Singaporeans to put plans into action."

Building a shared future must also mean giving every Singaporean a sense of hope and possi-bility, he noted.

Mr Heng also outlined initiatives that have been rolled out, from the Merdeka Generation Package for seniors, to making home ownership and pre-school education more affordable for young families.

Also, rail reliability has been improved, and more emphasis placed on environmental sustainability.

On the economy, the country has pressed on with industry transformation, he said. And while growth has slowed - the economy is projected to have grown by 0.5 per cent to 1 per cent last year - Singapore avoided a recession, he added.


Looking ahead, he said the PAP, which marked its 65th anniversary last year, will continue to be guided by its values of honesty, multiracialism, meritocracy and self-reliance.

"They give us the strength of conviction to do what is right for Singaporeans and ensure that we progress as a nation," he said.

Mr Heng ended his message with a call on Singaporeans, saying he is counting on them to translate their vision for the country into action, under the Singapore Together movement. "Let us bring Singaporeans together to work as one, and build an even better Singapore for all," he said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 01, 2020, with the headline 'Govt tackling slowdown even as it builds for future: Heng'. Subscribe