Budget 2021 to focus on strengthening social compact, innovation and sustainability: DPM Heng

The Government rolled out five Budgets last year, committing close to $100 billion in measures to mitigate the impact of Covid-19. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

SINGAPORE - This year's Budget - named Emerging Stronger Together - will focus on how Singapore can come out of the Covid-19 crisis stronger and forge partnerships to meet the challenges ahead as one people.

This means finding new ways to innovate and transform the economy, said Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat in a Facebook post on Monday (Feb 15) ahead of his Budget statement on Tuesday.

"We must strengthen our social compact and support one another, especially those with greater needs. On this little red dot, we must strengthen efforts to tackle climate change, and build a sustainable home for generations to come," he wrote.

"Importantly, we must continue to be prudent in our spending, and leave a better future for our children."

The Government rolled out five Budgets last year, committing close to $100 billion, or 20 per cent of GDP, in measures to mitigate the impact of Covid-19.

Singapore's economy contracted by 5.4 per cent for the whole of last year, a reversal from the 1.3 per cent growth recorded in 2019.

The Ministry of Trade and Industry is maintaining a gross domestic product (GDP) growth forecast of 4 to 6 per cent this year, but expects an uneven outlook across sectors, according to a report released on Monday.

Mr Heng said that while Singapore will be ending the financial year with a record budget deficit, the past reserves built up by earlier generations meant that it could fund the deficit by opening the "national safe" three times.

"Our fiscal situation will continue to be tight in the coming years," he added.

Up to $52 billion was drawn from past reserves last year, with the country racking up a deficit of $74.2 billion, Singapore's biggest since independence in 1965.

In an interview with Bloomberg in November last year, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said even a balanced budget would be very hard to achieve, as there was money that needed to be spent amid Covid-19 while the economy was still down.

The Government is required by the Constitution to run a balanced budget over each term of office.

Mr Heng said shared values - the desire to build on what has been inherited, and pass on something better to the next generation - are what bind Singaporeans together as a people.

"Indeed, we can take heart that through this crisis, we have built deeper social reserves - united in purpose, standing in solidarity with one another, and facing difficulties with resilience and fortitude."

Explaining the reason for naming the Budget Emerging Stronger Together, he said that as Covid-19 accelerated changes and created new ones, Singapore has to navigate these shifts to thrive in a post-pandemic world.

"Our ability to plan ahead, even in the midst of a crisis, has been the hallmark of the Singapore Story.

"I decided therefore that together, let's commit to build a Singapore that is economically vibrant, socially cohesive, environmentally sustainable and fiscally disciplined."

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