​Empower and help Singaporeans build on their strengths
PUBLISHED ON 28 Feb 2019
Singapore’s Budget 2019 is a strategic plan to build a strong and united nation, and this is done “the Singapore way”, said Minister for Finance Heng Swee Keat.
“Our budget builds on the foundation of earlier budgets,” he said in Parliament. “We have a multi-year plan which tackles the priorities as systematically as we can.” Mr Heng reiterated that the Government’s long-term approach to budget planning means that we cannot see each year’s Budget in isolation. The present Budget and the ones before it “were to build a better Singapore for all of us,” he said at the conclusion of three days of debate in Parliament on the Budget 2019 statement.
Wrapping up the debate, Mr Heng shared three approaches to the plan:
•            Put people at the centre of plans, strategies and programmes
•            Plan for the long term while taking an adaptive approach
•            Work in partnership with stakeholders, unions and voluntary welfare organisations
He pointed out that the Government has been giving significant support to young Singaporeans, workers, the less well-off and seniors and will continue to do more in the years ahead. Mr Heng also acknowledged that there is room to do even better to strengthen the support nets for the less advantaged.
Referring to the tightening of foreign workers, Mr Heng said it was a difficult, but necessary move. "We do not shy away from making difficult decisions if they are necessary... That is why we have been pushing hard on economic restructuring, and have taken further steps this year to drive deeper restructuring," he said.
On the planned increase in the Goods and Services Tax (GST) from 7 per cent to 9 per cent, Mr Heng said the Government would exercise care when deciding on the timing. Reiterating that the increase in GST is required to support needs like healthcare, pre-school education and security, he added that the Government will continue to monitor the prevailing economic conditions, trends in expenditure, and buoyancy of its revenues carefully.
Talking about Singapore’s reserves, Mr Heng highlighted that the Net Investment Returns Contribution (NIRC) is “already the largest single contributor of our revenues”, and larger than any of the taxes the Government collects. “If we did not have the NIRC framework, we would have had to double our personal income tax collection or our GST collection to raise the same amount of revenues,” he said.
He further added that the reserves allow Singapore to tide over a crisis, without being reliant on others stressing that the need for a rainy-day fund should not be underestimated. “Singapore faces particular vulnerabilities, given our lack of natural resources. With an economy worth nearly S$500 billion a year, we should set aside enough to protect it and our people’s livelihoods and future,” he emphasised.