Budget 2018

Budget 2018 a strategic and integrated financial plan: PM Lee

This year's Budget is "a strategic and integrated financial plan to build us a better future together", Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said yesterday.

He shared his thoughts in a Facebook post a day after Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat unveiled Budget 2018 in Parliament.

Mr Heng outlined four major moves for Singapore to tackle future challenges and seize opportunities. These are: building a vibrant and innovative economy; developing a smart, green and liveable city; fostering a caring and cohesive society; and ensuring a fiscally sustainable and secure future.

PM Lee said that for the economy to be vigorous and innovative, it is crucial for businesses to grow.

He assured companies that the Government will support them to grow and expand overseas, and that they will receive grants to innovate and build their capabilities.

This means continuing efforts to help them and workers develop digital capabilities and skills to adapt to the digital economy, he added.

To build a smart, green and liveable city, Singapore has to reduce its carbon footprint, PM Lee said.

The new carbon tax, at $5 per tonne of greenhouse gas emissions, is meant to encourage industries and consumers to cut back on emissions, he added.

The Prime Minister also highlighted the establishment of the Silver Generation Office to better look after the elderly as they age. It will help to coordinate social and health-related services for seniors.

Now known as the Pioneer Generation Office, it will take its new name in April when it merges with the Agency for Integrated Care.

PM Lee also noted that government spending will rise, especially in healthcare, infrastructure and security. Thus, while Singapore is on a sound fiscal footing, "we must plan ahead to ensure we can always afford to spend what we need".

On the plan to raise the goods and services tax from 7 per cent to 9 per cent some time between 2021 and 2025, he said it will be done in a "fair and progressive" manner. He added: "We will help households to cope with this change, especially poorer households."

Noting last year's better-than-expected surplus, PM Lee said Singaporeans can share in the fruits of the country's prosperity through a one-off SG Bonus of between $100 and $300, depending on income.

The surplus looks set to reach $9.6 billion, higher than the initial forecast of $1.9 billion.

This was mainly due to exceptional statutory board contributions of $4.6 billion - primarily from the Monetary Authority of Singapore - and $2 billion in stamp duty collected from the recent pick-up in the property market.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 21, 2018, with the headline 'Budget 2018 a strategic and integrated financial plan: PM Lee'. Subscribe