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Budget 2019 to focus on education, healthcare, security

21 Jan 2019

Heng says one priority will be to help S'poreans grapple with the big changes in global economy

Amelia Teng Education Correspondent

Singapore's needs in education, healthcare, security and defence are growing, and the upcoming Budget will focus on these areas, said Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat.

Mr Heng, who will deliver the Budget statement on Feb 18, said another priority will be to help Singaporeans grapple with significant changes taking place in the global economy and make use of opportunities, especially with technology.

Speaking on the sidelines of a community event in Tampines yesterday, he said: "We've done well in providing healthcare and education. We'll continue to do that - the needs in those areas are growing. At the same time, the needs for better security, and better ability to defend ourselves, are also growing.”

The Budget will focus on these key areas as well as in transforming Singapore's economy, he said.

While Budget 2019 is Mr Heng's fourth as Finance Minister, it will be his first since he was named first assistant secretary-general of the ruling People's Action Party, setting the stage for his anticipated succession as Singapore's next prime minister.

Yesterday, Mr Heng gave a quick overview of some key challenges that Singapore faces.

The Budget's "one simple aim" is to improve the lives of Singaporeans, and "the needs are very large, whether it is building big-scale infrastructure projects, like our MRT lines or the airport, or especially our HDB flats, or whether it's taking care of our seniors, and in fact all Singaporeans".

He also highlighted the importance of keeping the economy vibrant amid global uncertainties and rapid technological changes.

"We must take this opportunity to ride this wave of change and enable Singaporeans of all ages to do well in the coming years," he said.

Mr Heng added that Singapore has to be "very watchful about global developments", when asked how the recent rejection of the Brexit deal could affect Singapore.

Last Tuesday, British MPs threw out Prime Minister Theresa May's deal for Britain's departure from the European Union, which is scheduled to take place on March 29.

Mr Heng cited developments such as the new risks building up in the global economy, be it Brexit or the protectionist movement growing around the world.

He said: "People's support for globalisation is weakening because there is a sense that globalisation has left some people behind. And unfortunately, some of the developments are negative, even for their own country. Even for people who advocated a particular course of action, they're now regretting it."

Said Mr Heng: "It just shows that when we make economic policies, we have to be very, very thoughtful of the long-term implications, and that we cannot avoid doing the difficult things."

Singapore is on the right track by starting the process of restructuring its economy, he added.

"It's not easy. A lot of hard work goes into companies transforming themselves, a lot of hard work by workers to learn new skills. But it is the right thing to do and I hope that we can sustain the momentum."

He noted that corporate leaders are key players in the economy's transformation, and Singapore must stay focused in its efforts to restructure and upgrade skills and find meaningful partnerships around the world to stay competitive.