SINGAPORE - Parliament on Friday approved a record $79.9 billion Budget, with Leader of the House Ng Eng Hen and Speaker Halimah Yacob lauding it as one that will bring Singapore closer to its vision of a "fair and inclusive society".
With this Budget, and the three previous ones in its current term in office, the Government has "surely and steadily" made the deep structural changes needed to prepare Singapore for the challenges ahead, Dr Ng said.
As he wrapped up nine days of discussions over the Government's spending plans, he said the initiatives introduced over the past four years have significantly strengthened social safety nets and redistributed more wealth to the lower and middle class.
He said: "This represents a fundamental shift... so that we can maintain our precious social compact and bring opportunities and benefits to all."
Likening Singapore to a fleet of vehicles, he said it was made up of fast moving cars and trucks before, that sped on the quicker right lanes in pursuit of growth.
Now, coaches have also been added on the slower left lanes to bring along the elderly, disadvantaged and less able, he said.
Madam Halimah said the shift had sparked an ideological debate, "the likes of which one has hardly heard in this august Chamber".
But she warned that policies should be determined by how much benefit they bring, and not by what ideological position they conform to.
The changes had garnered unanimous support, they both said, with Government MPs, opposition MPs and Nominated MPs alike backing them.
But the MPs had also raised concerns about whether the Government can afford the spending, added Madam Halimah.
Dr Ng said these MPs "showed good judgment and honesty because it would have been so much easier and populist not to sound these warnings".
He added that whether or not the spending is sustainable will depend on whether Singaporeans can work together to make sure the country continues to thrive.
The Financial Year 2015 budget is $11 billion more than last year's, and will result in a deficit of $6.7 billion.
In all, 54 MPs spoke on the Budget statement, while 65 MPs submitted 466 cuts to join the debate on the individual ministries' budgets.
Wrapping up, Madam Halimah said the work was not over. "The end of this Budget Debate is but the beginning of more concerted efforts to reach out to Singaporeans on these policies."