Jobs, social equity and identity among key priorities

Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Indranee Rajah said a key principle in considerations to strengthen social safety nets is fiscal prudence.
Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Indranee Rajah said a key principle in considerations to strengthen social safety nets is fiscal prudence.ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

Jobs, building a fair and just society, as well as forging a common sense of identity are three key issues the Government will tackle in its new term, Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Indranee Rajah said yesterday.

These issues had dominated the parliamentary debate on the President's Address in the past five days, clearly reflecting that these concerns are at the forefront of people's minds, she said in an interview with The Straits Times.

In particular, people are worried about whether they can hold on to their jobs amid the Covid-19 crisis, she said.

"When you have a global recession - like in the current economy - and this competition for jobs and resources, people obviously feel a sense of angst, insecurity, and they are really, really anxious," she added. "So, we have to put a lot of attention on that."

Ms Indranee, who is Leader of the House, is also Second Minister for National Development and Finance.

The task of combating inequality, a priority the Government identified in its previous term, is of greater urgency now in the light of the pandemic, which has affected the less well-off more than those with extra resources, added the minister.

Earlier this week, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong spoke of the need to start thinking about how to strengthen social safety nets, and the best way to do it.

Ms Indranee reiterated that a key principle in such considerations is fiscal prudence.

It is particularly important now that the Government's normal sources of revenue, including income tax, corporate tax and the goods and services tax, are set to to take a hit, she said.

"We are looking at a situation where, clearly, there will be reduced revenues, and we have already had vastly increased expenditure. We will have to balance it."

This, however, does not mean further financial support for the lower-income has been ruled out, she added, pointing to how the Government took great pains to help the lower-income cope with the crisis with financial relief schemes like the Covid-19 Support Grant and grocery vouchers.


"We will not let those in need fall. We will make sure that we catch them," she pledged. "We will make sure nobody goes without."

On the issue of identity, she said that increasingly, there is a sense of a generational difference, if not a generational change, among Singaporeans.

Different generations may differ not just in terms of life experiences, but also on issues they view as important.

"But there may be some things which are universal. So, it is (about) getting a sense of that generational difference, and to make sure that no matter what, we are able to progress together as one people - united, not polarised."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 05, 2020, with the headline 'Jobs, social equity and identity among key priorities'. Subscribe