Helping workers and businesses to adapt, innovate and grow a key priority for Budget 2021: DPM Heng

DPM Heng Swee Keat (left) being shown the fabrication process of lithium batteries by engineer Kevin Tan, during a visit to the Durapower R&D labs on Feb 5, 2021.
DPM Heng Swee Keat (left) being shown the fabrication process of lithium batteries by engineer Kevin Tan, during a visit to the Durapower R&D labs on Feb 5, 2021. PHOTO: MCI

SINGAPORE - Helping workers and businesses to adapt, innovate and grow will be a key priority for Budget 2021, said Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance Heng Swee Keat on Friday (Feb 5).

The Government will also continue to support workers and businesses, especially those in hard-hit sectors.

But Singapore must press on with the economic transformation it started five years ago, he added.

He said: "Covid-19 has accelerated innovation, put a premium on resilience, and greater priority on sustainability.

"There is no turning back the clock. While we deal with the present, we must also prepare our workers and businesses for a different world post-Covid."

He was speaking during a visit to technology firm Durapower's research and development laboratories on Friday.

Last year, the Government rolled out an unprecedented five Budgets, committed nearly $100 billion in Covid-19 support measures and drew up to $52 billion from past reserves in order to preserve jobs, support companies and help affected workers.

According to the Ministry of Trade and Industry's advance estimates released on Jan 4, Singapore's gross domestic product contracted by 5.8 per cent for the whole of 2020 - an improvement over the ministry's earlier forecast of a contraction of 6.5 per cent to 6 per cent made in November.

But while the worst of the fallout has been averted, the road to recovery will be uneven and highly uncertain, said Mr Heng.

He added that he will share more on helping workers and businesses to adapt, innovate and grow in his Budget statement on Feb 16.

He also outlined initiatives which were launched last year to help workers and businesses emerge stronger - from helping small and medium-sized enterprises and hawkers adopt digital solutions to support for promising start-ups and entrepreneurs.

Over 100,000 opportunities have been created for workers through the SGUnited Jobs and Skills Package, and more resources have been set aside to encourage job creation and train Singaporeans to work in new sectors, he said.

Some $25 billion has also been committed over the next five years for research, innovation, and enterprise.

Mr Heng observed that many companies are adapting and innovating to seek new opportunities during the crisis.

"It is not easy but we must persist. I am fully committed to support these companies through their journey of innovation and transformation," he said.

"Together, we can emerge stronger as an economy; together, we can create better jobs for our workers."

There will be live television and radio coverage of the Budget, which will be unveiled in Parliament on Feb 16. A live webcast will also be available on the Singapore Budget website.

On Monday, Minister for Sustainability and the Environment Grace Fu announced a Singapore Green Plan 2030 which will set ambitious green goals for each sector. She said that Mr Heng will speak more on the sustainability agenda during the Budget debate.