Key concerns of Singaporeans addressed in Budget 2014: Heng Swee Keat

Education Minister Heng Swee Keat said on Sunday that he was happy this year's Budget addresses the key concerns of providing opportunities and assurance for Singaporeans.

These are the two themes that had emerged during the Our Singapore Conversation he headed last year.

Describing the Budget as "forward-looking", Mr Heng said it provides opportunities for Singaporeans by focusing on productivity growth and the creation of quality jobs, and also tackles the long-term challenges of an ageing population.

Mr Heng, who is also the adviser to Tampines Grassroots Organisations, was speaking to reporters at an event at Tampines Central Community Club to encourage parents to give their children more unstructured playtime.

The Pioneer Generation Package was the highlight of this year's Budget, with $8 billion set aside from it to fund the package for the lifetime of all the 450,000 pioneers.

On this, Mr Heng said: "I think we are in a position of strength to be able to set aside our Budget surplus to fund this very important long term programme.

"As we continue to be prudent in our spending, we can continue to build Singapore, to build a better society."

He also said that not having means-testing for the Pioneer Generation Package is the "right thing to do". The benefits are given to all, regardless of income, with the older pioneers getting more.

"We should not forget that apart from Pioneer Generation Package, there are also a number of means-tested schemes to help pioneers and Singaporeans in general from the lower-income group. So in fact, this Pioneer Generation Package builds on existing packages which have elements of means-testing," he said.

Separately, Ms Grace Fu, Minister in the Prime Minister's Office, said it was important to communicate the Pioneer Generation package "in simple terms" for people to understand.

"Most of them are aware of this package but they're not quite aware of the details and how it's going to work, so I think it's time for us to take the next step of explaining how it's going to benefit them and how they can access this scheme," she said on the sidelines of a People's Association carnival.

Dialogues in Mandarin and dialects will be arranged for residents in her Yuhua ward, where she is the MP. One session will be held on Tuesday.

And in a Facebook post, Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong said what he liked most of the Budget was the "underlying value of generational filial piety".

Noting that none of the current Cabinet ministers are from the pioneer generation, he said he was "touched by their wise decision to pay respect to the collective contribution of the generation before them".

"This PG has scrimped and saved. They gave us their shoulders to stand on," he wrote.

But Mr Goh also noted that filial piety has been weakened through "the modernisation and Westernisation of Singapore".

"I hope that this meaningful show of generational piety will rekindle our respect and love for the old and remind us of our duty to take care of our parents and grand-parents."

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