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Budget 2016 will have strong focus on the economy: Heng Swee Keat

Finance Minister also says the Government will be "particularly prudent" with this year's Budget.

SINGAPORE: Singapore's upcoming Budget will have a strong focus on the economy, not just for the short term, but for the medium term, said Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat.

Speaking to the media on the sidelines of a tour of the Tuas facility of local logistics company, Pan Asia Logistics Holdings on Friday (Mar 4), Mr Heng acknowledged that the main challenge that almost all companies face continues to be restructuring their businesses.

"Almost all businesses face this challenge, which is the need to restructure, because you are seeing more competition and changes in technology," he said.

"Even though we have a period of slower growth globally, we have continued to encourage our companies to find global growth opportunities, even as we take measures to meet immediate challenges."

Mr Heng said measures announced in the upcoming Budget will be aimed at not just to helping firms cope with short-term challenges, but at finding medium-term growth opportunities too.

"We see very significant changes that are going on around us in the global economy, especially the regional economy," he said. "The more ready we are to change, adapt and respond to these very significant shifts around us, I think the better we will be, and we will be in a stronger position."

The minister noted that some sectors are facing stronger headwinds, while others are seeing opportunities. "It is quite a variegated landscape now. And the policies will have to address this variegated landscape," he said.

"Our forecast remains that we are likely to grow between 1 and 3 per cent, so while we face a slowdown, we are not in a recession, so I don’t think that is the central scenario in our view. So we have to continue to focus on what we need to do to manage in this slower growth environment."

The Finance Minister added that the Government is likely to be "particularly prudent" with the Budget this year. "Because it's the first year of the new term of Government, we have to be particularly prudent so we have resources when we need to act later." Under the Constitution, the Government has to keep the budget balanced over the full term.

Mr Heng said a part of the Budget will be on SkillsFuture, the national push for learning at every age. "Changes are coming quite rapidly and I think there is the need for us to continue to learn new skills, to be able to cope with change."

He added that the Budget will continue to have a focus on some social measures, "so that we can continue to build a society that allows individuals to thrive and to target help at vulnerable groups".