Budget roundtable: Panellists' take on skills upgrading, future growth and more

Two economists, one business chamber leader and a labour MP came together on Wednesday at The Straits Times-UOB Budget Roundtable to give their insights into the recent Budget. Here's their take on certain key issues:

OTHER SOCIAL PRIORITIES

We cannot take our eye off the ball. Children from disadvantaged families don't pay anything out of pocket for their formal schooling but we have to look at the other disadvantages they face - access to the same kind of market-paid enrichment programmes and tuition as children of middle-and higher-income families.

Retirement adequacy - we could afford to look more seriously at whether we can provide some kind of minimum retirement benefit topped up by the Government.

So it's integration in Silver Support with the CPF scheme more formally. And how we build up CPF savings for lower-to middle-income workers, see whether we can give them more of a headstart in building up their savings.

SINGAPORE UNIVERSITY OF SOCIAL SCIENCES ECONOMIST AND NOMINATED MP WALTER THESEIRA


INVESTING IN SKILLS UPGRADING, DESPITE NO TOP-UP TO THE SKILLSFUTURE PROGRAMME

The half-life of skills is five years, so gone are the days where you learn and you work and you retire. The new adage should be learn, work, learn, work, learn, work and then you retire.

 
 
 
 
 

So there are a lot of measures from the SkillsFuture perspective to encourage, that has to be really one key focus for the Government in many years to come.

LABOUR MP AND NTUC ASSISTANT SECRETARY-GENERAL PATRICK TAY


FUTURE GROWTH

We're underselling Singapore if we settle for just 2 to 3 per cent economic growth.

So Finance Minister (Heng Swee Keat) mentioned a very important vision - Singapore as the global Asia hub for innovation, technology and enterprise.

Second, if we are able to develop many more local companies into growth companies, they will offer good jobs and good potential for Singapore.

Third, growth in the region. Asean is still doing well, 5 to 6 per cent growth. China is still 6 per cent - not a small number. So plenty of opportunities.

SINGAPORE BUSINESS FEDERATION CHIEF EXECUTIVE HO MENG KIT


LOWER QUOTAS FOR FOREIGN WORKERS IN THE SERVICE INDUSTRY

The share of GDP of services to the overall GDP itself makes up almost 70 per cent.

So with the tightening of the DRC (Dependency Ratio Ceiling) for the service sector, there are only two things firms could do. Either scale down or increase cost to attract more local employees. And that pushes up the cost of services in general.

And if we just look at the inflation basket, a good part is being made up by food and also recreation. There's inflation risk in the coming years once the DRC is reduced from 40 per cent to 38 per cent and subsequently to 35 per cent.

UOB ECONOMIST BARNABAS GAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on February 24, 2019, with the headline 'Panellists' take on...'. Print Edition | Subscribe