Government looking at measures to tackle economic slowdown, global uncertainty: DPM Heng Swee Keat

Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat will announce the Budget in February 2020. PHOTO: BUSINESS TIMES

SINGAPORE - Even as the Government builds for the longer term, it is looking at measures to tackle the economic slowdown, said Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat.

In a message released by the People's Action Party on New Year's Eve (Dec 31), he acknowledged Singaporeans' concerns about the slowing economy and growing uncertainty in the global environment.

"We are committed to investing in and creating opportunities for Singaporeans to make a better life, and ensuring that no one is left behind if they put in effort," said Mr Heng, who is the ruling party's first assistant secretary-general and also Finance Minister.

Mr Heng, who will announce the Budget in February, said that in the coming year, the Government will also step up support for businesses to transform and help workers acquire new skills, in addition to supporting families and caring for seniors.

It is the first time Mr Heng has issued a year-end message to Singaporeans on behalf of the party, in a move that reflects his standing as the leader of the PAP's fourth-generation (4G) team and the presumptive future prime minister. Traditionally, only Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong - the party's secretary-general - gives a New Year Message.

In his message, Mr Heng noted that the PAP's mission is to build a fair and just society, where the benefits of progress are spread widely to all.

Generations of PAP leaders and members have served with conviction, compassion, integrity and distinction, he added.

"We have always done what is right by Singaporeans, for Singaporeans. The 4G leadership will do the same. We will continue to win and honour the trust and support of Singaporeans, with all our heart and strength."

Reflecting on the year gone by, he highlighted sharper political polarisation and social unrest in different parts of the world, with people driven apart by differences of race, religion, class or generation.

These divisions feed distrust and suspicion, hurting societies and their people, he said.

Singapore, he stressed, must not allow differences to divide society, but instead harness its diversity as a strength.

Mr Heng added that he is glad the Singapore Together movement, which he launched in June to work more closely with Singaporeans in shaping policies and the country's future, is gaining momentum.

"We have heard the concerns and aspirations of Singaporeans. We engaged our people on what we want to achieve for our country," he said. "More importantly, we are working with Singaporeans to put plans into action."

Building a shared future for all Singaporeans must also mean giving everyone a sense of hope and possibility, he noted.

Mr Heng also outlined various initiatives that have been rolled out, from the Merdeka Generation Package for seniors, to making home ownership and pre-school education more affordable for young families. Rail reliability has been improved, and greater emphasis placed on environmental sustainability.

On the economic front, the country pressed on with industry transformation, he said. And while growth has slowed - the economy is projected to grow by 0.5 to 1 per cent in 2019 - Singapore avoided a recession, he added.

Looking ahead, he said the PAP, which marked its 65th anniversary this year, will continue to be guided by its values of honesty, multiracialism, meritocracy and self-reliance.

"They give us the strength of conviction to do what is right for Singaporeans and ensure that we progress as a nation," he said.

Concluding his message, Mr Heng said he is counting on Singaporeans to translate their vision for the country into action, under the Singapore Together movement.

"Let us bring Singaporeans together to work as one, and build an even better Singapore for all," he added.

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