SINGAPORE: Throughout the two-week Committee of Supply debates, Singapore and Singaporeans were not lost sight of and always at the centre of it all, Speaker of the House Halimah Yacob said on Thursday (Mar 9).
Speaking as she drew the Budget debate session to a close, Madam Halimah reflected in Parliament that this is as it should be. "There was that good mix of heart, head and occasional humour. There was down-to-earth pragmatism as well as dashes of idealism and level-headedness, always with two feet firmly on the ground."
"Compassion was never far away, with mutual respect, cordiality, rationality and reasonableness being unmistakable marks," she added.
This year's Budget statement was delivered against the backdrop of a world in the grips of growing uncertainty in the global economy brought about by disruptive technologies and innovation, and the accompanying rise of populism and protectionist sentiments in a number of countries, she pointed out.
And the ministers took pains to expand on their respective ministries’ plethora of programmes to prepare and assist Singaporeans to be future-ready to tackle the challenges ahead and chart the way forward, guided by the recommendations contained in the report of the Committee on the Future Economy, she added.
"HELP SCHEMES MUST HELP"
Madam Halimah also noted how some members of the House were "visibly moved" as they spoke of the plight and frustrations of Singaporeans facing difficulties in their lives. It showed the heavy burden on their shoulders, she said.
"Although schemes are available, these unfortunate Singaporeans must be helped to avail of them, and thrown a lifeline if necessary. Help schemes must help."
She also took time to thank Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat for delivering the annual Budget statement and to address concerns and queries in the debate. The minister had suffered a stroke during a Cabinet meeting last May and only resumed his duties in August that year.
Her biggest vote of thanks went to all members, whose contributions and understanding made the debate "outstanding in many respects, and my job as Speaker a gratifying and fruitful one".
"We may be business-like, but in no way do we lack the cut and thrust of parliamentary debate," she said.
"If only members could learn to do away with long preambles and go straight to the point raised in their questions and clarifications, they would not need to deliver their speeches at breakneck speeds.
"Your cooperation and forbearance have helped to make it all possible."