Singapore Budget 2019: Looking at past to chart way forward in Bicentennial year

Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat urged Singaporeans to reflect on the "twists and turns" in the island's history to chart a path forward for an even better future.
Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat urged Singaporeans to reflect on the "twists and turns" in the island's history to chart a path forward for an even better future.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - As Singapore marks its bicentennial year this year, Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat urged Singaporeans to reflect on the "twists and turns" in the island's history to chart a path forward for an even better future.

He also called on Singaporeans to respond to challenges with grit and determination.

Mr Heng said there were episodes in the country's history where its fortunes waned due to external forces.

Today, it is facing four major shifts: the shift in global economic weight towards Asia; rapid technological advancements; changing demographic patterns; and the decline in support for globalisation, with some countries questioning its value.

On the global stage, trade frictions between the United States and China have developed into a strategic competition of strength and of governance systems, and this has raised geopolitical uncertainty.

Closer to home, he noted that the 10 Asean economies combined are projected to become the fourth largest in the world by 2030.

However, bilateral issues have surfaced with Malaysia.

 
 
 

He said these need to be resolved based on mutual respect and common interests as well as international laws and norms. He added that Singaporeans must remain united. 

On the domestic front, Mr Heng said longer-term challenges need to be addressed.

These include ageing, social mobility, inequality, economic transformation, and climate change.

Mr Heng said the Budget's strategic plan centres on building a strong, united Singapore for the country to continue to progress.

It will draw on the country's strengths and the Singaporean DNA - of openness, multi-culturalism, and self-determination - forged from its roots as an open port.

Highlighting four main thrusts, Mr Heng said that at the fundamental level, Singapore must be kept safe and secure to allow its people to preserve their way of life and to forge their own destiny.

He said the economy must continue to transform into a vibrant and innovative one to provide opportunities for Singaporeans to realise their potential.

Mr Heng also emphasised the importance of building a caring and inclusive society to weave a tightly-knit social fabric.

Lastly, the work of building Singapore as a global city and home for all - keeping it smart, sustainable, and globally connected - must continue, he said.

Likening Singapore to the small but quick-witted mouse deer Sang Kancil, he said Singapore can make its way in the world and take advantage of its size and strategic location.

"As a city-state, we are nimbler and can adapt to changes faster. We serve as a neutral, trusted node in key spheres of global activity."

Mr Heng added: "We must continue to cultivate cross-cultural literacy among our youth, and encourage them to build bridges with people across the world.

 
 
 

"We strive to be a place where people and ideas congregate, at the frontier of global developments. We want to be a Global-Asia node of technology, innovation and enterprise."

Mr Heng called on all Singaporeans to partner with the Government and support one another to succeed in this endeavour.

"We are using our financial resources to help realise our strategies for a strong, united Singapore."

"But financial resources alone do not get us there."

Read Mr Heng's full speech.