SINGAPORE: The upcoming Budget will address Singapore's "current needs, as well as position us for the future", Second Minister for Finance Indranee Rajah said on Monday (Dec 2).
In an interview with CNA938’s morning show Asia First, she noted that the Budget would not be "business as usual, because what’s happening in the world is not business as usual".
She was responding to host Arnold Gay, who had asked regarding the impact of ongoing issues such as Brexit and trade tensions between the United States and China.
“You’re correct in the sense that the global environment will require a response from us. But at the same time, we also have to look forward,” said Ms Indranee, who is also Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office.
“So this is going to be a Budget that will address our current needs but also position us for the future.”
In the face of expected economic slowdown, Singapore needs to build on its strong economic foundations, she said.
“Our institutions are strong, our businesses are steady. You may not be seeing the sort of really high yield growth that you’ve had before, but there are strong foundations on which we can work.”
She encouraged firms here to look at three areas – innovation, regional expansion and building capability.
Innovation will allow businesses to make the most of what they already have, while going regional will allow them to expand their markets.
In addition, both businesses and their workers must upgrade and build up their capabilities, she added.
This is what Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong meant by his comments – given in Busan at the end of the ASEAN-Republic of Korea Commemorative Summit last week – that next year’s Budget is one which will be “strong, and suitable to the state of the world, and what the Singapore economy needs”, she said.
While previous Budgets have had provisions for helping workers upgrade themselves, there has been a shift in how the authorities approach the issue of education and training.
“In the past, if you had a recession or a downturn, then the idea was, okay we will make use of this period, just to retrain now or to do some extra things,” said Ms Indranee.
She pointed to the financial crisis of 2008, noting that employers at the time were encouraged to send workers for training instead of laying them off, which would allow them to work in the same jobs once again when the economy picked up.
“What's different is that now the jobs are evolving very quickly, and the way you do the same job could change,” she said.
“So the important thing is for workers and companies to see that this training is lifelong, it's over a lifetime, and it's going to have to happen constantly, even in good times.”
The Government is still working on how it will address this issue in the Budget, she said.
On whether there will be support for worker’s wages in the Budget, she said that how the authorities have done this is by supporting employers to help them employ and train workers.
While the Government wants to help businesses with the costs of such efforts, it does not want such support to be a “permanent subsidy of wages”, she said.
“What you really want to do is put the money and help them to grow, and then to be able to expand the employment, and train workers and build capability.”
The Government is also looking at how the Budget can best support the needs of older workers, as well as families with children at different levels, she noted.
And while the authorities want to protect the jobs of people here, this does not mean jobs will remain the same, said Ms Indranee.
“What we want to do is to grow the number of jobs, whether it's the same type of work or new work, but make sure that you connect people with jobs so that you have as much employment as possible.”