Time really flies. It is hard to believe that we are almost at the end of 2019. Year end is when we reflect on what has been achieved during the year. Importantly, it is also the time when we have to prepare for the next year.
As part of these preparations, we launched the pre-Budget 2020 engagement early this month. Our national Budget is of importance to all Singaporeans because the way in which we deploy our finances reflects our values and priorities and will determine the course that we take as a people and a nation going forward.
Challenging External Environment The international environment remains challenging, with uncertainties such as the United States-China trade tensions and the downswing of the global electronics cycle. The world is also changing in deep, structural ways, with globalisation and rapid technological advances leading to growing income inequality and widening political differences within societies.
However, Singapore is different from other countries. We must continue to remain different in order to succeed. Our sound economic foundations and the continued regional growth in Asia give us reason to be confident. We must continue to make the most of these opportunities.
The Budget is a strategic financial plan to position ourselves for our future. It is important therefore that all Singaporeans have a chance to contribute ideas and feedback. This way, we not only benefit from a wide range of ideas and suggestions, but also ensure that we address issues that are of topmost concern to our citizens.
The strategies for Budget 2020 are: l Transform l Support l Sustain Transforming Our Industries and Workers Our priority is to help our businesses innovate, go regional and build capabilities so that they can better navigate the uncertainties and changes. Our economic transformation is on the right track. We will continue providing the correct type and level of support to help firms transform and strengthen their capabilities.
We must also continue to support our workers to upskill and re-skill so that they can get good jobs and good pay. Many workers have already upskilled and re-skilled. We encourage more to do so and to take advantage of the SkillsFuture movement and the Adapt and Grow initiative.
Supporting Singaporeans The heart of our social policies is about providing all Singaporeans with opportunities and ensuring we progress together. We will continue to support and enable young families, including through supporting pre-school and housing needs, give children the opportunity to maximise their potential through education and support our seniors by helping them earn more and save more.
Many Singaporeans are concerned about the cost of living. While we already have many schemes to help Singaporeans manage cost of living for major expenditure items, including housing, healthcare and education, we are also considering how we can better support Singaporeans through this period of economic uncertainty.
Ensuring Sustainability Climate change is an existential threat. We must play our part to address the underlying cause as a responsible member of the international community and ensure our city is adequately equipped to mitigate the effects.
We must also ensure financial sustainability. Our ageing population will mean a big rise in healthcare expenditure. We will also have to spend more on pre-school education and security. So we will have to raise the GST rate in the next term of government. This is the right and responsible thing to do - to meet the growing recurrent costs of our social and security needs.
However, we know that people are concerned whether they can manage when the increase kicks in. We are committed to helping Singaporeans cope with the change. Budget 2020 will include details of an offset package that will help lower and middle-income Singaporeans manage their costs, notwithstanding the increase.
Staying united The challenges facing Singapore in the years ahead will continue to grow in complexity. We must stay united as we navigate these waters. It will also require the wit and wisdom of all Singaporeans to find solutions to these challenges and chart a new course.
In crafting Budget 2020, we are also strengthening our partnership with Singaporeans by co-creating and co-delivering new policies and programmes. We hope to get suggestions from the public to shape ideas for Budget 2020 and help chart our future.
Indranee Rajah is Minister in the Prime Minister's Office and Second Minister for Finance and Education
You can submit your suggestions and feedback for Budget 2020 via any of these channels:
- Singapore Budget Website at www.singaporebudget.gov.sg
- REACH Budget Microsite at www.reach.gov.sg/budget2020
- REACH Singapore Facebook at www.facebook.com/REACHSingapore
- REACH Singapore Instagram at www.instagram/reachsg
- REACH Singapore Feedback Form at www.reach.gov.sg/about-us/contact-us/feedback-form