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Ministry of Finance Addendum to the President's Address

22 Jan 2016

Mr Heng Swee Keat

Minister for Finance

1             MOF supports Singapore’s growth towards a value-creating economy, a thriving city, and an inclusive society anchored on shared values. We aim to sustain this through sound public finance policies and management, and an effective and efficient government that seeks to innovate and deliver value for money.

Maintaining Sustainable Finances and Value-for-Money


2             Today, Singapore is in a position of strength and able to make substantial investments to meet our economic and social needs. This is because we have always emphasised prudent spending and built reliable, broad-based revenue sources. We have also invested our reserves prudently and spent the investment returns in sustainable ways.


3             Global economic weakness coupled with a more mature economy will mean slower growth. In this environment, we must continue to focus on spending within our means. Even as expenditures on transport infrastructure, healthcare and housing increase, we must emphasise value-for-money in every programme, and maintain the approach of targeting subsidies towards those most in need. In a future with tighter constraints in land and manpower, we must strive to be more productive and innovative to deliver better outcomes.


4             Over the longer term, we should build up government revenues to meet the higher spending needs of an ageing population. We must do so in a way that keeps the economy vibrant and the tax system progressive.  


Supporting our Transformation into a Value-Creating Economy


5             To transform from a value-adding into a value-creating economy, our firms must shift from competing on cost or adding incremental value, to creating new, innovative, and differentiated products and services. MOF will support the development of a conducive environment for businesses to restructure, innovate, and internationalise.


6             In this next phase of development, our focus will be on partnering firms to acquire deep capabilities to innovate and succeed in overseas markets. We will align government support with these goals to ensure that innovative, growth-oriented, businesses can access this support more easily and effectively. Where appropriate, we will form partnerships with Trade Associations and Chambers, develop new industry platforms like the National Trade Infrastructure and capitalise on private sector financing and expertise to help firms to grow and transform through better use of technology and new business models.


7             To make it easier to do business in Singapore, we will review existing regulations to reduce compliance burden and costs, particularly for small companies, as well as further leverage Information Communications Technology (ICT) to deliver improved services to businesses.


8             On the international front, we will continue to advance Singapore’s economic interests through active participation in major regional and global financial fora such as ASEAN, APEC and G20. We will also partner actively with international organisations like the IMF and World Bank to ensure international financial stability and sustainable economic development. In addition, we will maintain our competitiveness in attracting and retaining substantive business activities here.


9             For our firms to create value, we need people with deep skills and passion for their work, and the capacity to innovate. Through SkillsFuture, we will invest in our people to maximise their potential. We will collaborate with unions, employers, and training providers to develop a high quality, integrated system of education and training that responds to the evolving needs of our businesses and the economy.  These are critical partnerships to chart out the future skills and jobs of the economy.


Nurturing an Inclusive Society and Thriving City


10          We must provide opportunities for all Singaporeans to do well and realise their potential throughout life. We will invest more to provide every child with access to quality pre-school to ensure a good start in life. In the schooling years, we will continue to build multiple pathways to success.


11          We are also doing more to help our seniors stay healthy, lead active lives, and contribute their skills and expertise. Many of our seniors will be our baby boomers, who are now in their 50s and 60s, and they will be at the forefront of successful ageing. We will continue to build on our healthcare and retirement adequacy systems. We have introduced the Pioneer Generation Package, implemented MediShield Life, and raised healthcare subsidies for lower- to middle-income Singaporeans. There will be more opportunities for seniors to learn, volunteer, and take part in activities within their neighbourhoods.


12           We have also made significant changes to our CPF system to help CPF members accumulate more CPF savings, for example, by providing additional extra interest on lower balances of older members. The Silver Support Scheme will provide an income supplement for the bottom 20-30% of elderly Singaporeans. Singaporeans will also be given more choices and flexibility in their retirement planning through the CPF system.


13          A cohesive and inclusive society is anchored on personal responsibility, strong families, and communities. For families, we will enhance care support to help Singaporeans balance their aspirations in work and family life. For stronger communities, we will support Singaporeans to volunteer and contribute to causes meaningful to them, through improved matching with volunteer opportunities and providing volunteer training. In addition, we will ensure affordable access to community infrastructure to be inclusive, to promote social mixing, and to strengthen social cohesion.


14          We will enhance Singapore’s living environment and support economic vibrancy through continued investments in greenery, housing, and public transport. We are improving bus services and expanding our rail network. While we do this, we will also make better use of our existing transportation infrastructure through the development of regional growth clusters that bring jobs closer to homes.


Developing a High Performance Government


15          The public sector will itself need to transform to be ready for the future, and digital technologies will be an important means to do so. To improve the delivery of services to Singaporeans, we will provide better and more integrated services digitally including through mobile platforms. For Singaporeans who may be less familiar with technology, we will continue to provide digital assistance and access so that every Singaporean can benefit. Within Government, we will also leverage technology to drive efficiencies and use data analytics to improve operations and support policy-making.


16          As part of our efforts to co-create solutions with citizens, we will increase opportunities for collaboration with the public through various platforms. We will share more data so that the private sector and the public can help create innovative applications to meet economic and social needs.


17          Finally, we are introducing greater flexibilities in the way the public sector procures goods and services, so that in addition to ensuring careful spending, we also support and encourage vendors to adopt more productive and innovative solutions.