SINGAPORE - With Budget 2022, the Government has made significant moves to position Singapore for the future and remain competitive on the manpower, fiscal and even environmental front.
"It is clear this Budget is going to be transformative in more ways than one," said Associate Professor Terence Ho from the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy.
"It requires businesses to adapt to the constraints of the future economy, both on the energy and sustainability front, as well as the manpower front."
Prof Ho was speaking to The Straits Times' assistant political editor Lim Yan Liang about how this year's Budget sets the pace for the economy and workers to move towards becoming both more sustainable and more competitive, at the askST@NLB discussion titled: How does Budget 2022 help workers and businesses?
askST@NLB is a collaboration between ST and the National Library Board (NLB).
The virtual talk was shared on ST's Facebook page on Friday (March 25).
Among the major announcements in the Budget was that the carbon tax rate will be increased significantly from the current $5 per tonne of emissions to between $50 and $80 by 2030.
"The Government has sent a very clear signal that it is very committed to this green transition," said Prof Ho.
While it may be more aggressive than expected, he said it is still well within the range already imposed by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development economies.
Existing government efforts such as the Enterprise Sustainability Programme will see the Government channelling resources to help businesses make the necessary adjustments.
"Every support will be given to help increase capabilities, improve energy efficiency and tap alternative renewable energy sources to achieve this transition," he said.
Prof Ho also noted that this year's Budget emphasised growing global enterprises, such as top-in-class and most prominent firms that can leave an international mark; as well as uplifting the broad base of small and medium-sized enterprises.
"(This) is also crucial if we are going to transform the economy... areas like digitalisation, innovation and internationalisation will be key for the continued successes of enterprises in Singapore," he said.
Among the slew of announcements at the Budget speech by Finance Minister Lawrence Wong on Feb 18 was that salary thresholds would be increased for new Employment Pass and S Pass holders.
"Firms are quite clear that we remain open to foreign manpower, where this must be complementary (to the local workforce)," said Prof Ho.
Lifelong learning as well as developing the Singaporean core were other major touchpoints during the Budget.
"Given that we always say people are our only resource, I think it is important to make sure that we maximise the potential of each person," he said.
He noted that support has been announced for workers in the form of programmes and grants, so that they can transform, reskill and ensure that they keep on progressing in their careers.
He highlighted the SkillsFuture Career Transition Programme.
"This offers training in place, where they train in industry-relevant skills and domains, and then with employment facilitation, be helped to find a job... it also enables these efforts to be scaled up to benefit a lot more workers," he said.
Prof Ho also spoke about how the Budget will help the younger generation of Singaporeans chart their way forward, where recent moves - such as the removal of mid-year examinations - contribute to freeing up time and space for people to learn skills that will carry them through life.
"This year's Budget will just add to a whole suite of initiatives that are meant to build confidence in young people, helping them to take failures in their stride; be resilient and adapt; be innovative and creative; be future-ready, Asia-ready and in a sense, have this international orientation," he said.
He noted that there is going to be a transformation of institutes of higher learning that caters to lifelong and adult learning, with the Ministry of Education studying the possibility of a higher lifetime cohort participation rate in education. This way, more working adults could get places in Government-funded degree programmes.
"Increasingly it is recognised there is no reason why education has to be completely front-loaded... given the dynamics in the economy and the changing requirements, people need to continually refresh their skills, and this gives people an option to pursue a degree as and when it is most suited for them," he said.
Prof Ho concluded that the various moves and measures announced at Budget are "necessary to position ourselves for the future, bearing in mind the global constraints and the (local) workforce constraints".
"It is not just defensive - it positions us well to be competitive, which is going to be critical, as we need to earn a living in this volatile and dynamic world," he said.
Members of the public can find more information and resources on this topic at ProQuest Central - a database the NLB subscribes to - using keywords such as "Singapore economy" and "employment Singapore", narrowing down their search to resources published in the last two years.
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Those who do not have a myLibrary ID can go to account.nlb.gov.sg and sign up for one using their Singpass or identity card number or foreign identification number.
The video recording of the event and past sessions can be found here.
The next askST @ NLB session will be held on April 29.
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