SINGAPORE: Members of Parliament (MPs) filed 530 cuts, which lasted 3,120 minutes or about 52 hours, during this year's Committee of Supply Budget debate - the longest speech time required for cuts over the past five years.
"This speaks to the breadth and gravity of the issues we face today," Leader of the House Grace Fu said in Parliament on Thursday (Mar 8), as she rounded up the eight-day debate.
The debates were "vigorous", Ms Fu added, as she thanked members for carrying out their roles with dedication and decorum.
Ms Fu's speech came at the end of a session which opened with Workers’ Party MP Sylvia Lim refusing to apologise for a comment she made regarding the impending goods and services tax hike despite admonishments from a few People's Action Party MPs.
"These differences of opinions are important and the debate helps us refine and clarify," Speaker of the House Tan Chuan-Jin said in his round-up speech.
"Argue, fight by all means, but within limits and in a responsible manner. But I am thankful that despite it all, we do have a unity of thought and conviction as to where we should go and how we should position ourselves as a nation."
In the process, Mr Tan said, difficult and unpopular choices sometimes need to be made.
"We all grapple with these dilemmas in our daily lives, as individuals, in our families, at school, at work, as leaders," he added. "It is no different at a national level."
But beyond the differences that are "often amplified", Mr Tan observed that "we have more points of convergence and agreement than not".
"So long as we do not hold ourselves back and be mired as others do, we can boldly move forward into the brave new world," he said.
Building on that theme, Ms Fu said nation-building goes beyond what the Government can do through its policies. "So much more can be achieved when we do it as one united people," she added.
Likewise, it is "the people" who will ensure Singapore has a fiscally sustainable and secure future, Mr Tan said, noting the importance of going the extra mile for each other.
"Deep down inside us, we know that these are fundamentally important, but unlike everything else in the Budget, these cannot be mandated by law," he added.