SINGAPORE: Singapore must continue to focus on coming out of the COVID-19 crisis stronger, and forge partnerships to meet the challenges ahead “as one people”, said Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat on Monday (Feb 15), a day ahead of his Budget statement.
Naming Tuesday's Budget the Emerging Stronger Together Budget, Mr Heng said in a Facebook post that Singapore will need to find new ways to work together, innovate and “transform our economy”.
“We must strengthen our social compact and support one another, especially those with greater needs. On this little red dot, we must strengthen efforts to tackle climate change, and build a sustainable home for generations to come,” said Mr Heng, who is also Finance Minister.
“Importantly, we must continue to be prudent in our spending, and leave a better future for our children.”
READ: Singapore economy expected to bounce back this year, bulk of it 'should be able to recover': PM Lee
READ: The Big Read: Pummelled by COVID-19, Singapore's economy to begin K-shaped recovery with Budget 2021
Singapore must continue to stay vigilant, even as the country has moved into Phase 3 of its reopening and vaccination is under way.
“As COVID-19 has accelerated changes and created new ones, we must also navigate these shifts to thrive in a post-COVID world. Our ability to plan ahead, even in the midst of a crisis, has been the hallmark of the Singapore Story,” said Mr Heng.
After a pandemic-hit 2020, Singapore will be ending the financial year with a record Budget deficit.
But thanks to past reserves that earlier generations have built up, the country has been able to fund the deficit by “opening the national safe three times”, said Mr Heng, adding that the country’s fiscal situation will “continue to be tight in the coming years".
The Government drew an unprecedented S$52 billion from the reserves last year.
READ: Singapore economy could have contracted 12.4% if not for COVID-19 Budget measures: MAS estimates
Mr Heng said he met an elderly man in his 70s during a visit to Bedok recently who told him that the Budget “should not be about goodies”, but that it was more important to invest in building up people’s abilities and enabling them to do better.
“Shared values such as this – the desire to build on what we inherit and pass on something better to the next generation – are what bind us together as a people,” said Mr Heng.
“Indeed, we can take heart that through this crisis, we have built deeper social reserves — united in purpose, standing in solidarity with one another, and facing difficulties with resilience and fortitude.”
The Government pushed out five Budgets last year as the devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic became clear. Including two supplementary budgets, close to S$100 billion was spent on support measures for businesses and individuals, and to deal with the pandemic.