Budget addresses both short- and long-term concerns says Indranee

Second Minister for Finance and Education Indranee Rajah highlighted plans to transform businesses through embracing technology and life-long learning. ST PHOTO: ARIFFIN JAMAR

SINGAPORE - This year's latest Budget has set aside money not just for short term needs, but also long term ones, stressed Second Minister for Finance and Education Indranee Rajah.

Highlighting plans to transform businesses through embracing technology and life-long learning, Ms Indranee said these are part of long-term efforts to restructure the economy.

"When you're planning as a government, you have to plan as a whole. And in this particular budget, we have planned, both to address short-term, as well as long-term needs," she said at a feedback session on the Budget, organised by the Government feedback unit Reach.

Around 150, including business leaders and youths, attended the event on Thursday (Feb 21) at the Asian Civilisations Museum.

In a poll conducted before the feedback session started, about half of them felt that the Budget seemed to be focused on addressing short-term concerns.

"Actually that's not what this budget does, the budget actually does both. It address current needs, but there is a long-term view to it," said Ms Indranee, who is also Minister in the PMO.

She pointed also to the 30 per cent of national spending set aside by the Government for defence, security and diplomacy efforts, and programmes like SkillsFuture that are available to ensure Singaporeans upskill and upgrade themselves.

The $6.1 billion that will be set aside for the Merdeka Generation Package also drew queries. The package, for those born between Jan 1, 1950, and Dec 31, 1959, has benefits like a Medisave top-up of $200 a year for five years, a one-off $100 top-up to the PAssion Silver Card and additional subsidies for outpatient care for the rest of their lives.

Some asked why the benefits of the package, which include yearly top-ups to Medisave and higher healthcare subsidies, were not means tested.

In designing the package, Ms Indranee said that it was meant to be recognition of a generation's contributions, which is why the handouts for the Merdeka Generation are given to everyone who qualifies equally across the board, regardless of their circumstances.

"For the Merdeka Generation package, we felt that you're recognising a cohort, you're recognising the cohort's contributions. So all of them, from all different backgrounds in their different ways also contributed. So that was the reason why it was felt that we will give it to them without means testing," she said.

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Some asked why the Government is setting aside 30 per cent of total expenditure this year for defence, security and building good relations with neighbouring countries and major powers.

Mr Tan, who is also Minister of State in the Foreign Affairs and Social and Family Development ministries, said that strong defence force had made Singapore well-respected and allowed it to to build connections with its foreign partners.

Drawing upon his experience in the Foreign Affairs ministry, Mr Tan said: "My own sense is that wherever we go into another country, we are treated well and with respect. Why? It's because we have a defence capability that is more than able to defend our interests.

"So people know that when we have a credible Singapore Armed Forces (SAF), we are able to defend ourselves, and they take us seriously and they take the discussion seriously."

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