"So (now) this is a very targeted approach, rather than the examples we see of companies going out there trying to buy laptops, iPads for everybody," he said.
Dr Theseira agreed, arguing that there has been little accounting of the positive effects, if any, arising from the huge subsidies given out by the Government to companies.
"So the concern I have - the subsidies the Government has been giving out towards restructuring, I don't think have been spent efficiently by a lot of companies," he said. "Perhaps that is because sometimes, companies don't even know what to do with the money, right? I give you money for automation in robotics, robotise what?"
But the president of the Association of Small and Medium Enterprises, Mr Kurt Wee, warned against doing away entirely with a broad-based incentive approach.
He said that for every bad example of companies frittering away PIC grants, there are more of companies which used them for good.
"When you want to make changes at the ecosystem level, the broad-based schemes are important and it helps you to move that needle," he said.
PARTNERING FOR THE FUTURE
The second area in which Mr Heng has differed from his predecessor is in how he is positioning the Government as more of a partner than a leader in confronting the challenges of the future, said Mr Choo.
The Budget is signalling that it is less interested in trying to take a direct lead on how to find a solution. Instead, it now wants to work with trade associations, companies and unions more closely.
Mr Choo noted that there will be increased funding and support for trade associations and chambers to improve their outreach to companies, a clear sign of the Government wanting to tap networks.
Instead of adopting a top-down approach to picking industries for growth, the approach now is that the Government is choosing to help a firm of a certain size to grow, regardless of which industry it belongs to.
The Automation Support Package, for example, is clearly targeted at helping companies of a certain size with the capacity and knowledge to expand the use of machines in their operations. It will subsidise up to 50 per cent of a project, which will help companies scale up the use of automation, to a cap of $1 million. Firms likely to use this are most likely those with plans to grow overseas, or are of medium size.
This is not a bad approach, said Mr Choo. "Let's bet on the winners, let the winners get Singapore to the next stage. Let us vary the way and change the way we use money - betting on the ones that have delivered on growth, support them the best that we can, letting other companies not doing so well go through some pain and restructure," he said.
"But we ought to make sure that there is a social system to take care of the workers."
The third area where change can be seen is a shift away from productivity to innovation. In his speech, Mr Heng acknowledged that productivity growth has "not been as strong as we would like". He said: "While productivity has grown by an average of 2.7 per cent per year over 2009 to 2015, most of this increase was due to the cyclical rebound in 2010 and 2011. Productivity growth has remained relatively flat over the past three years."
Innovation does not mean using high-tech software to mine data or using robots to drive growth. It is in the application of existing technologies, a creative and lateral way of thinking that can also work, said Mr Wee. He cited Pestbusters, which has started using satellite technology and drones to streamline its operations, as an example of a small firm doing a lot with technology. This creative thinking is the kind that he thinks the Government is seeking to encourage.
Signalling this new approach is the upcoming $100 million National Trade Platform. Among other things, it will allow service providers to develop applications or value-added services on top of the platform, akin to an open-source environment.
Another is the commitment to transforming Jurong West into a cluster of areas that promote and incubate innovation.
But Mr Koh said there has to be a balance in this. "Innovation is an elusive idea and the more one tries to cultivate it, the harder it is to realise it," he said.
The better approach, he said, is to create the right ingredients for creativity and innovation to flourish. And that will mean taking risks, difficult for a country used to seeing structured approaches to problems.
"So sometimes in Chinese, we say it's qi fa (to enlighten). That means you come in, think through how we evolve out from this space. It's creating a culture and an ecosystem."
A MORE RADICAL APPROACH?
For Dr Theseira, however, his main beef with the Budget is that it is moving too slowly in acknowledging how things are changing.
The labour market, for instance, could be in for a big shock, especially if Singapore is going to transit into a more "normal" economy, where structural, or long-term unemployment, is significantly higher than the 0.6 per cent experienced today.
He suggested revisiting the idea of unemployment insurance, because when structural unemployment starts to rise, there will be many people out of a job for extended periods of time.
"You change industry, maybe you're not suited for it, you are not being unemployed for a while, right. And so I think again that's the second reason why we need to think about providing the scaffolding or support, because without it, you can't realistically expect people to take these kinds of risks," he said.
He hoped this Budget will "lay the groundwork over the next couple of Budgets or this term of government for a more radical relook at some of the ways we do things".
Mr Choo agreed, saying: "It's balanced, it has quiet confidence, and I think that let's not think that one Budget will be the silver bullet to our economic slowdown."
Mr Heng himself seemed to pre- empt "silver bullet" solutions, pointing out: "Budget 2016 is the first step of the next lap in what we hope will be a long, successful journey."
MR KURT WEE, PRESIDENT OF THE ASSOCIATION OF SMALL AND MEDIUM ENTERPRISES