Budget debate: Speech Of The Day

A 'wait and see' Budget with room for improvement

Non-Constituency MP Daniel Goh said he shared the disappointment many had about the Budget but concluded it was a "wait and see" one. Here is an edited extract of his speech.

This is a "wait and see" Budget.

This is why Minister Heng Swee Keat opened the Budget statement signalling a time of Vuca - the volatility of populist politics, the uncertainty of economic protectionism, the complexity of technological disruptions and the ambiguities of the changing global order.

When everything is up in the air, we need to wait and see, to keenly observe the trajectories of the things being thrown up to decide which gems to catch and how to catch them.

Wait and see does not mean to do nothing...

Waiting means to keep ourselves busy with training and development. Thus many of the Budget initiatives are focused on the long-term development of business capabilities and enhancing the affordability and accessibility of training for our workers.

Seeing means to be vigilant and be prepared to respond quickly to opportunities and exigencies. Thus many of the Budget initiatives have to do with road-mapping and transformation mapping, and prototyping, testing and experimenting.

Waiting and seeing also means cultivating strong bonds of trust through shared engagements. Thus many of the Budget initiatives emphasise partnership, alliances and integrated spaces.

If I were to summarise this "wait and see" Budget in three main thrusts, they are, one, training and development; two, mapping and testing; and three, partnership and team building.

Despite my initial disappointment and dissatisfaction, I believe this Budget is making the right moves of waiting and seeing in these three thrusts.

But I do not think we should dismiss the negative sentiments of disappointments and dissatisfaction with this Budget. They are also signals to possible deficiencies and gaps in the Budget.

I believe they point to one defect that the Government can do a lot better to address. This is the psychological effect of insecurity induced by the Vuca environment. It is getting very dark and cold in the field, and ordinary Singaporeans are feeling unsettled by the uncertainty. We need to understand and alleviate this psychological insecurity.

There are three ways to improve the psychological security and mental well-being of ordinary Singaporeans, even as they are exhorted to train and develop themselves as they wait and see.

1 We should maximise the availability and accessibility of the training programmes as far as possible.

2 We need to strengthen the safety nets for middle-income households who are financially squeezed on several fronts and threatened by employment insecurity.

3 We should transform the current management culture of top-down leadership to one of service-based leadership, which is more conducive to fostering real partnerships of trust...

I have come to accept this "wait and see" Budget for what it is. It is downtime and the Government is encouraging Singaporeans to get busy with training and development, mapping and testing, partnering and team-building. We are preparing for the fight to come.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 01, 2017, with the headline 'A 'wait and see' Budget with room for improvement'. Print Edition | Subscribe