Budget debate: Important to secure long-term resilience of Singapore economy, say MPs

27 Feb 2020 3 min read

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Singapore should build up local ecosystems of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) with the necessary operational know-how to ensure long-term economic resilience, Member of Parliament (MP) for Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC Ong Teng Koon said.

Highlighting the importance of in-house ability in times of crisis, Mr Ong encouraged the Government to identify areas of critical need or essential services and to build up a core of local talent, adding that while it is cheaper to outsource in the short term, the value of in-sourcing would be massive in difficult situations.

He was among severals MPs who commented on the importance of developing the resilience of Singapore firms and the country’s global attractiveness for the long term in the debate on the Budget statement.

Citing the Mittelstand, Germany’s world-class, export-oriented SMEs as an example, Mr Ong said: “Perhaps it is time for us to explore how we can build a core of locally-anchored, stakeholder-conscious Singapore businesses that can help our economy in both good times and bad.”

He suggested that the Government could invest in a fund and a development bank for Singapore’s own Mittelstand and catalyse the entire SME ecosystem.

MP for West Coast GRC Foo Mee Har said there is an urgent need to find new ways to source, train and retain talent necessary to sustain growth.

Industry associations can learn from the Swiss and play a pivotal role in galvanising players in the sector to join forces in delivering impactful training for the industry, Ms Foo suggested.

More support for workers and freelancers to retrain and upskill

Several MPs called for more support in getting Singaporean workers to retrain and upskill themselves amidst the current downtime on top of the $500 top-up of SkillsFuture credit.

Highlighting the need for freelancers who are more vulnerable to economic changes to get more support, MP for MacPherson Tan Pei Ling said that the Government could consider extending the working capital loan to freelance workers affected by the Covid-19.

 A long-term solution would be to have more structures to protect and support freelancers, including setting standards and best practices, she added.

MPs call out for a more support for parents and their families

MPs also called out for more time for parents to spend with their families in Parliament.

MP for Nee Soon GRC Louis Ng raised the point that it was time to extend childcare leave, as the last increase was more than a decade ago. He said that the current six days are insufficient especially when parents may need to take leave when their children fall ill.

He also called on the Government to extend paid parent-care leave to all Singaporeans.

Separately, MP for Ang Mo Kio GRC Darryl David called for more subsidies for after-school care even after children graduate from pre-school to help parents get alternative care arrangements while they are at work.

Community Development Councils to roll out free meals for vulnerable families

Mayor of South West District Low Yen Ling announced that the five Community Development Councils (CDCs) will be launching an island wide initiative to provide free meals in the heartland for vulnerable families.

She added that the Meals in the heartland initiative not only complements the Care and Support package for Singaporeans, it also brings businesses to heartland food joints and coffeeshops that are feeling the effects of a slowdown due to Covid-19.

Speaking in Parliament, Ms Low also highlighted the critical role that the CDCs play in strengthening bonds and improving the welfare of those in need.  She shared that the CDCs rolled out 111 local assistance schemes that benefitted close to 156,000 beneficiaries in 2019.

The CDCs will continue to deepen their efforts to boost the resilience of low-income families and heartland businesses to help them beat the Covid-19 storm, she added.