Key Budget focus to help workers, businesses: Heng

But Singapore must also get on track with its economic transformation plan, says DPM

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 yesterday.

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-19."

He was speaking during a visit to technology firm Durapower's research and development joint laboratories with Nanyang Technological University. The firm is headquartered in Singapore and has subsidiaries in China, Europe and Thailand.

Yesterday, Mr Heng was also introduced to Durapower's work on advanced lithium-ion battery technology for vehicles and energy storage systems.

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 last year - 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 supporting 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. About $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."

Yesterday, Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing also said that government support will be increasingly focused on helping firms transform and seize opportunities in new markets, as resources are finite and must be used judiciously. "The weight of our efforts going forward must increasingly be targeted," he said.

There will be live coverage of the Budget, which will be unveiled in Parliament on Feb 16, on The Straits Times website and Facebook and YouTube pages, as well as on television and radio. A live webcast will also be available on the Singapore Budget website.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 06, 2021, with the headline 'Key Budget focus to help workers, businesses: Heng'. Subscribe