SINGAPORE: The Government will spend about S$22.7 billion, or about 30 per cent of its total expenditure in Financial Year (FY) 2019, on defence, security and diplomacy, Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat announced in his Budget statement on Monday (Feb 18).
In FY2018, defence, security and diplomacy spending accounted for about 28 per cent of the total Government expenditure.
“Given its strategic significance, the Government will continue to invest a significant share of our resources … to support our defence, security and diplomacy efforts,” he told Parliament.
“This spending is significant but indispensable. We will invest more, if the need arises, to protect the sovereignty of Singapore and the well-being of Singaporeans.”
Defence spending is expected to hit S$15.5 billion, up from S$14.8 billion the previous FY, while Home Affairs and Foreign Affairs spending is expected to hold steady at S$6.7 billion and S$0.5 billion, respectively.
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This comes after Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen revealed in his Committee of Supply debate speech last March that Singapore’s defence spending will be maintained at a level that keeps pace with inflation – around 3 per cent to 4 per cent increase each year – over the next decade.
“Against an increasingly uncertain geopolitical environment, our commitment to defence and security cannot waiver,” Mr Heng said. “Diplomacy and deterrence are the twin pillars of our approach.”
Mr Heng said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs continues to build good relations with Singapore’s neighbours and global powers, and promote a rules-based international order with international laws and norms.
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At the same time, a strong Singapore Armed Forces lends weight to the country’s diplomatic efforts and ensures negotiations are taken seriously, he added, noting that should diplomacy fail, Singapore must stand ready to defend itself and safeguard its interests.
Domestically, the Home Team works round-the-clock with other security agencies to ensure a safe environment, Mr Heng said, while the Cyber Security Agency protects Singapore’s critical information infrastructure from cyber threats and creates a secure cyberspace for people and businesses.
EVOLVING SECURITY THREATS
Nevertheless, Mr Heng said security threats are evolving and becoming more complex, noting that the terrorism threat to Singapore remains high. For instance, authorities continue to detect radicalised individuals in Singapore, while attacks perpetrated by these individuals and cells rise globally.
Beyond physical threats, Mr Heng said malicious cyber activities are growing as well.
“The networked nature of our society has enhanced connectivity,” he added. “But this can be exploited to disrupt and divide society, through cyberattacks, the spread of falsehoods or other means.”
In particular, Mr Heng said foreign actors will try to influence Singapore’s domestic affairs and politics, noting that technologies have made it easier for others to mount attacks with greater ease and intensity, and with more sophisticated tactics.
Experts have said the cyberattack on SingHealth last June, which saw the records of 1.5 million patients accessed and copied, was likely carried out by a nation-state actor.
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DEFENDING AGAINST THREATS
“To stay ahead of these threats, we must continue to innovate and build new capabilities to meet our security needs,” Mr Heng said. “Both the public and private sectors have a major role to play.”
The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) will set up a Home Team Science and Technology Agency by the end of this year. It will also help transform the private security industry through innovation and technology to meet growing needs.
In addition, Mr Heng said Total Defence will continue to keep Singapore safe and secure. This includes stockpiling critical supplies, diversifying sources of water and strengthening food security.
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“As a people, we must have the psychological and emotional resilience to face crises stoically,” he added, citing the role of National Service in helping each and every Singaporean understand his or her duty of defending the nation.
Amid Singapore’s drive to be a Smart Nation, Mr Heng reiterated that its people must also defend the nation from digital threats, as he pointed to the addition of Digital Defence as the sixth pillar of Total Defence.
“We must all play our part to be secure, alert and responsible online, be it through practising good cyber hygiene, being vigilant against fake news, and helping one another use technology safely,” he said.
“Everyone has a role to play to keep Singapore safe and secure. Let us continue to stay united in defending our home and way of life.”