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Public Feedback Received In Preparation For Budget 2009

17 Jan 2009

As part of the preparation for Budget 2009, the Government has engaged in extensive dialogue with members of the business community, unionists, grassroot leaders and members of the public to gather ideas and suggestions.

2. Ministry of Finance (MOF) launched the annual pre-Budget feedback exercise in October 2008. The Ministry of Trade & Industry, Ministry of Manpower, REACH and People's Association, amongst others, have also been actively obtaining feedback on the issues affecting the public and various sectors of the economy.

3. In particular, PM Lee, Finance Minister Tharman, Trade & Industry Minister Lim Hng Kiang and other government leaders have been meeting directly with representatives from unions, the community and business leaders to understand the issues affecting different sectors of the economy and how Government initiatives could be enhanced to help both businesses and the economy remain competitive in the current economic climate.

4. More than 900[1] (over 20% increase from the previous year[2]) feedback and suggestions were received during MOF's 2009 pre-Budget feedback and industry consultation exercises, which ran from October to December 2008. Over 80% of the feedback includes suggestions for the Government to introduce measures in Budget 2009 that can help both businesses and households cope with the current downturn, as well as maintain Singapore's economic competitiveness in the long-term.

5. Mr Poon Hong Yuen, Director of Budget 2009 said that:

'Getting public feedback is an important aspect of our preparation for the Budget. In terms of breadth of coverage, we try to include a broad spectrum of feedback and dialogue partners from the business, social and grassroots sectors. Where required, we would also engage with partners more deeply on certain issues. We are encouraged by the enthusiastic response so far with numerous useful ideas and suggestions from various channels. The main challenge that we face is in deciding how to strike the right balance between sometimes competing requests from different communities and organisations. The feedback that we have received has given us a good sense of the issues and concerns facing various groups and will certainly help us in the formulation of Budget initiatives.'

6. MOF values all feedback received as the public's views are important in the process of policy formulation and in the implementation of new initiatives. The views we receive make a difference in shaping our perspectives and considerations. Suggestions pertaining to specific areas are also channelled to the Ministry responsible for consideration and feedback received may be considered for implementation in future where it is not relevant to the Budget.

7. Over the years, MOF has been conducting pre-Budget feedback exercises to gather views from members of the public, grassroots leaders, unionists and the business community in preparation of the annual Budget Statement. Some of the suggestions received from past exercises that have been introduced in Budget 2007 and 2008 include:

(i) Lowering the foreign domestic worker levy and extending the levy concession to employers with disabled family members. [Budget 2007]

(ii) Enhancing the tax relief for course fees to provide more support to individuals seeking continual upgrading. [Budget 2008]

(iii) Increasing the payout for the Public Assistance Scheme by amounts ranging from $40 to $165 per month. The eligibility criterion for the Public Assistance Scheme was also widened to allow more individuals to receive Public Assistance. [Budget 2008]

(iv) Introducing special tax allowance for cost of fixtures and fittings (from industry-feedback) which particularly help SMEs that renovate their business premises. [Budget 2008]

8. MOF would like to thank all respondents for their suggestions during the pre-Budget 2009 Feedback Exercise. Our feedback channels will re-open from 6pm on 22 January 2009 for the public to submit views on the initiatives that will be introduced in the 2009 Budget statement. The post-Budget feedback channels are included in Annex A (icon_pdf49 KB).

9. In addition to seeking public feedback, MOF is actively involved in engaging youths in Singapore to increase their awareness and understanding of the Government's finance and resource budgeting decisions. This year, the very first Inter-School Budget Debate Challenge was launched for students to take part in mock parliamentary debates over the Budget. In all, 32 schools took part in the preliminary rounds that were held on 15-16 January 2009 and eight schools have advanced to compete in the Finals on 30 January 2009. More details of the various outreach activities can be found in Annex B (icon_pdf22 KB).

[1] About 30% of the feedback was received through REACH's feedback channels.
[2] Over 700 feedback and suggestions were received during MOF's 2008 pre-Budget Feedback exercise