Security spending set to increase at Budget 2018 amid heightened terror threat: Heng Swee Keat

Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat visiting the Home Team Tactical Centre on Feb 2, 2018. ST PHOTO: AW CHENG WEI

SINGAPORE - Singapore will boost its security spending to tackle the terror threat, which is at its highest level in recent years. Already, there are plans to introduce a facial recognition system to quickly identify suspects, and install 11,000 more cameras in public areas such as hawker centres and linkways to bus interchanges.

Explaining the need to "take action", Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat said security spending will be a "very major item" in the upcoming Budget.

"I do expect our security expenditure to go up because we want to be able to support our security agencies in this very important mission to keep Singapore safe and secure," he said on Friday (Feb 2).

He also expects spending to continue to increase over the next decade, he added.

In 2016, the Home Affairs, Defence and Foreign Ministries spent $19.5 billion - slightly more than a quarter of the government's budget - on security. This was a 30 per cent increase from the $14.8 billion spent in 2011.

When asked how the Government will fund the higher spending, Mr Heng said that "we need to do our long-term expenditure projection as well as our long-term revenue needs".

He declined to say by how much security spending will increase, saying details will be revealed during Feb 19's Budget day.

Mr Heng, who was Assistant Commissioner of Police, was speaking after watching a demonstration by Home Team officers, who used explosives to break into a room where terrorists were hiding.

Over the past two years, the police has trained specialist teams who will be the first to respond in the event of an attack. It has also put up 65,000 public cameras across 10,000 Housing Board estates. By 2020, 11,000 more cameras, with some able to capture 360-degree images, will be added. The police will also develop a Video Trawling and Analytics System that will detect, track and recognise faces.

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Mr Heng said that Singaporeans are taking national security issues "very seriously".

"Since we rolled out SGSecure, many more people are taking action to raise their knowledge level... to prepare for contingencies," he said, referring to the national movement to mobilise Singaporeans to prevent and deal with a terror attack.

Correction note: This story has been edited with police clarifications.

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