Budget debate: Former ministers express confidence in 4G leadership

Former manpower minister Lim Swee Say also praised Budget 2020 for sticking to a key tenet of earlier governments: pursue economic growth not as an end in itself but to build social cohesion and counter social divides. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Two former ministers on Wednesday (Feb 26) expressed their confidence in the way Singapore's fourth-generation (4G) leaders have handled the Covid-19 outbreak, while urging them to take heed of its lessons and the key principles that have guided earlier governments.

While Budget 2020 has a suite of measures to stabilise the economy and help those hit by the coronavirus outbreak, measures such as the plan to phase out internal combustion engine vehicles by 2040 and an increased budget to strengthen the Government's cyber-security capabilities show the Government is also keeping an eye on the future, said former minister for communications and information Yaacob Ibrahim (Jalan Besar GRC).

Both issues, to mitigate the effects of climate change and strengthen Singapore's digital infrastructure, are important, he told the House during the debate on the Budget statement.

They not only affect Singapore's future, but also enables the country to take the global lead in these areas, Professor Yaacob said.

Former manpower minister Lim Swee Say (East Coast GRC) also praised Budget 2020 for sticking with a key tenet of earlier governments: pursue economic growth not as an end in itself but to build social cohesion and counter social divides.

"From 1G to 2G to 3G, we never forgot to channel the revenue generated from our competitive economy to take better care of our people," said Mr Lim. "With this Unity Budget, our 4G is doing the same, and more. It will further strengthen our unity, cohesion and inclusiveness as One Singapore United."

The two former ministers also called on the 4G leadership to build on the trust between the people and the Government, and work to prevent social gaps from widening.

At the end of their valedictory speeches, fellow MPs thumped their armrests in applause. Both men have been in Parliament for 24 years and are likely to step down at the next general election.

For Singapore's digitalisation efforts to succeed, Prof Yaacob said the people must trust that the Government does not misuse their data. Even then, privacy concerns may still arise, he added.

Likewise, complex and long-term issues like climate change require public trust, as the Government has to spend huge sums over a long period to benefit future Singaporeans, he added.

Inevitably, the trust between the Government and the people will undergo stresses as the country grapples with these issues, he noted.

But, he added: "The trust we have built over the past 60 years or so has given us a quality of life that is the envy of other nations."

Mr Lim pointed out that some countries may pursue globalisation at the expense of widening social gaps, while others may turn inward, eventually becoming less competitive.

Singapore wants the best of both worlds: a globally competitive economy and a locally cohesive society at the same time.

This requires Singapore to strive to not only be a pioneer and leader in frontier technology, but also ensure ample help for those at the bottom of society, he said, urging the 4G leaders to expand the Progressive Wage Model to more jobs and sectors.

The duo's faith in the 4G leaders was reflected in Prof Yaacob's statement: "I have full confidence in the ministerial team in not only dealing with this crisis but also in learning from it valuable lessons that will help us prepare for the next crisis."

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