Budget 2019: Building a Strong, United Singapore
BUILDING A STRONG, UNITED SINGAPORE
1 Minister for Finance Heng Swee Keat delivered the Singapore Government’s Budget Statement for Financial Year 2019 in Parliament on Monday, 18 February 2019.
2 Presented in our bicentennial year, Budget 2019 comes amid four major shifts: the shift in global economic weight towards Asia, rapid technological advancements, changing demographic patterns, and increasingly, the decline in support for globalisation. Domestically, there are long-term challenges we must address as a society. We will chart our way forward confidently, building on our distinct strengths and our Singaporean DNA.
3 Budget 2019 outlines a strategic plan to build a strong, united Singapore:
(a) We will keep Singapore safe and secure
(b) We will continue to transform and build a vibrant and innovative economy
(c) We will continue to build a caring and inclusive society
(d) We will continue to build Singapore as a global city and home for all
(e) We will achieve these goals in a responsible and fiscally sustainable way
Keeping Singapore Safe and Secure
4 A safe and secure Singapore gives us the confidence to chart an independent course. Diplomacy and deterrence are the twin pillars of our approach. We will continue to invest a significant share of resources to support our defence, security, and diplomacy efforts. Security threats are evolving and becoming more complex, so we must continue to innovate and build capabilities, including science and technology, to meet our security needs. Singaporeans also play a part in our Total Defence, which recently included Digital Defence as the sixth pillar.
Skilled Workforce, Innovative Firms, and a Vibrant Economy
5 The Singapore economy grew by 3.2% in 2018, but global growth is expected to moderate with increased uncertainty and downside risks. Beyond maintaining a stable macro-economic environment, we need to ensure Singapore firms and workers remain competitive and stay relevant to the world. Budget 2019 includes three key thrusts to support industry transformation: first, building deep enterprise capabilities, second, building deep worker capabilities, third, encouraging strong partnerships within Singapore and across the world.
6 To build deep enterprise capabilities, we will provide support in three areas: providing customised assistance, better financing options, and supporting technology adoption. These will be done through programmes such as Scale-up SG programme, a streamlined Enterprise Financing Scheme, and an expanded SMEs Go Digital programme. The Government will also continue to invest in R&D and new Centres of Innovation.
7 We want our people to have the skills, knowledge, and attitude to adapt and thrive in a competitive and technology-intensive environment. Professional Conversion Programmes will be launched for new growth areas. The Career Support Programme will be extended. A new Global Ready Talent Programme will streamline existing schemes to support students and professionals in gaining international experiences through internships and job postings.
8 To encourage strong partnerships, the Government will enhance the Local Enterprise and Association Development programme, and strengthen Singapore’s position as an innovation node, among other measures.
9 To press on with economic restructuring efforts, we will reduce the services sector Dependency Ratio Ceiling. Meanwhile, to support firms as they adjust to these changes, we will put in place transitional support measures, till end-FY2022.
A Caring and Inclusive Society
10 Budget 2019 is part of our long-term plan to build a caring and inclusive society. This year, we are introducing further measures to uplift Singaporeans to maximise their potential, provide access to opportunities through all stages of life, provide greater assurance for healthcare, and foster a community of care and contribution through strong partnerships.
11 The Government has significantly increased spending on pre-schools, and has targeted interventions for disadvantaged children and their families. We will strengthen after-school care and support in school-based Student Care Centres. To provide better wage support to lower-income workers, we will enhance the Workfare Income Supplement scheme. For older workers, the Government will extend the Special Employment Credit (SEC) and the Additional SEC schemes for one year. We have a Tripartite Workgroup studying the concerns of older workers, and the Government will also review how we can help workers earn more and save more for retirement.
12 To provide greater healthcare assurance, the Government will extend CHAS, the Community Health Assist Scheme, to cover all Singaporeans for chronic conditions, and enhance subsidies for existing CHAS cardholders. We will set up a new $5.1 billion Long-Term Care Support Fund, to fund CareShield Life subsidies and other support measures, such as ElderFund. The new Merdeka Generation Package, benefitting close to 500,000 Singaporean seniors, will comprise five key benefits: a one-time top-up to the PAssion Silver Card, annual MediSave top-ups for five years, additional subsidies for outpatient care for life, additional MediShield Life premium subsidies for life, and an additional CareShield Life participation incentive.
13 Building on the SG Cares movement, the Government will nurture youth leaders, encourage volunteerism among seniors and older employees, and encourage public officers to volunteer through the Public Service Cares initiative. In addition, we are launching two special initiatives to commemorate the Singapore Bicentennial: a $200 million Bicentennial Community Fund to encourage more Singaporeans to give back to the community, and a $1.1 billion Bicentennial Bonus to share our surpluses with various segments of society. The Bonus will go some way in helping Singaporeans meet their daily needs.
A Global City and Home for All
14 We are not done building Singapore, and we are planning well into the future. We will continue to invest in our infrastructure to be well-connected within and with the world, and ensure a sustainable environment for all through ways like tackling climate change. The Government will continue to restructure diesel taxes by reducing the lump sum annual Special Tax and raising the volume-based excise duty.
A Fiscally Sustainable Future
15 As we continue to invest in our economy, our home and our people, we will do so in a fiscally sustainable way. We will pursue a differentiated fiscal strategy. For investment in major, long-term infrastructure, the Government will study the option of borrowing to distribute the share of funding more equitably across generations. For recurrent spending, the fairer and more robust approach is to meet them through recurrent revenue. The tax system will thus be reviewed continually to ensure its resilience. In this regard, the GST import relief and alcohol duty-free concession for travellers will be tightened.
16 As we chart our future beyond the bicentennial year, it is important that Singapore remains open and connected, takes the long view, adapts with the times and draws strength from our diversity. Building on continuing government efforts, Budget 2019 continues our aspiration to build a Strong, United Singapore.
17 More details of Budget 2019 can be found on the Singapore Budget website, at www.singaporebudget.gov.sg.
MINISTRY OF FINANCE
18 FEBRUARY 2019
 The additional $1,500 CareShield Life participation incentive will also be extended to Pioneers.