SINGAPORE - Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Tuesday (Feb 20) called this year's Budget "a strategic and integrated financial plan to build us a better future together".
He was sharing his thoughts in a Facebook post a day after Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat delivered the Budget 2018 speech in Parliament.
Mr Heng outlined four broad strokes for the Republic to tackle future challenges and seize opportunities.
Echoing these points in his post, Mr Lee first noted that to build a vibrant and innovative economy, businesses need to grow.
He said that the Government will support businesses to innovate and build capabilities through grants and help firms grow and internationalise.
This means continuing efforts to help firms and workers develop digital capabilities and skills to adapt to the digital economy, he added.
Second, for Singapore to become a smart, green and liveable city, the country will need to reduce its carbon footprint, he said.
He said the new carbon tax, at $5 per tonne of greenhouse gas emissions, is aimed at encouraging industries and consumers to cut back on emissions.
To better look after the elderly as they age, a new Silver Generation Office (SGO) will help to coordinate social and health-related services for seniors.
The SGO, currently known as the Pioneer Generation Office, will be renamed to reflect its enhanced role, when it merges with the Agency for Integrated Care to become its outreach arm from April, announced Mr Heng.
Mr Lee also noted that the Government will see spending rise in key areas such as healthcare, infrastructure and security.
Thus, while Singapore is on a sound fiscal footing, Mr Lee said, it is crucial to plan to ensure that it can "always afford to spend what we need".
On the Government's plan to increase the goods and services tax from 7 per cent to 9 per cent some time between 2021 and 2025, Mr Lee said that this will be carried out in a fair and progressive manner.
"We will help households to cope with this change, especially poorer households," he added.
In addition, he noted that citizens will be able to share the fruits of Singapore's prosperity through an SG Bonus of between $100 and $300, after a better-than-expected Budget surplus last year.
The Government is expecting an overall Budget surplus of $9.6 billion for its 2017 financial year, higher than the initial forecast of $1.9 billion.
Mr Heng noted in his speech that this was mainly due to exceptional statutory board contributions of $4.6 billion - primarily from the Monetary Authority of Singapore - and increased stamp duty collections of $2 billion due to the recent property market pickup.
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