Singapore Budget 2019: Quick Takes

THE Singapore Budget 2019 was delivered by Singapore's Minister for Finance Heng Swee Keat on Monday.

Here are some quick takes from the business community and market observers:

Deloitte Singapore

"The reduction in the value of goods that travellers can import into Singapore from S$150 to S$100 if the trip is 48 hours and from S$600 to S$500 if the trip is longer is expected. Travellers should be aware that Singapore Customs will be paying close attention over the coming holiday season.

"The Minister has confirmed the proposed increase in GST to 9 per cent between 2021 and 2025, while highlighting that 9 per cent is low compared to many other countries. The Government shows that it hears public concern on the increase of GST, but also offers a bigger picture view on rates elsewhere. It is pertinent that the Minister mentioned that the Government will continue to absorb GST on subsidised health and education costs, so helping to reduce the overall impact of the eventual increase. It is clear that the Government remains committed to the rate increase after 2021." - Richard Mackender, Tax Partner and Indirect Tax Leader, Deloitte Singapore and Southeast Asia.

"The announcement of the 50 per cent personal income tax rebate, subject to a cap of S$200, for the year of assessment 2019 was interesting. The cap of S$200 is the lowest in the history of individual tax rebates granted, and really demonstrates the intention to ensure and enhance the progressivity of the tax system, since the middle income earners will be the biggest beneficiaries of the rebate." - Sabrina Sia, Tax Partner and Leader of Global Employer Services, Deloitte Singapore

"As Mr Heng has aptly pointed out, responsibility of a sustainable future is on both Singapore's corporate and individual citizens. Although the increase in excise duty rate on diesel will result in increased costs for businesses and individuals, it is a step towards ensuring that Singapore's current green cover is not taken for granted. This measure will also complement Singapore's efforts to further build and rely on the public transportation infrastructure." - Wong Meng Yew, Tax Partner and Global Trade Advisory Leader, Deloitte Singapore and Southeast Asia

PwC Singapore

"The Finance Minister sees an external environment with continuing geopolitical uncertainty, a continuation of the digital revolution and slowing global growth. The Budget response is a focus on security, particularly cyber security and a targeted approach to expediting digital skills and re-skilling the workforce with less reliance on foreign manpower." - Peter Le Huray, Global Tax Markets Leader, PwC

"Local firms are at different phases of growth and competencies. Customised support programmes such as Scale-up SG and Innovation Agents programmes introduced in this Budget will help high growth local firms in deepening their capabilities, strategising how they should venture in new growth markets and introduce innovative products and services so that they can compete globally." - Lennon Lee, Entrepreneurial & Private Clients Tax Leader, PwC Singapore

"The re-calibration of foreign manpower policy is a timely wake-up call to the services sector that industry re-design transformation is central; undue reliance on cheap foreign labour will soon be a thing of the past. Businesses will need to accelerate industry transformation with a focus on automation, redesigning worker skillsets and employing older Singapore workers." - Girish Vikas Naik, Global Mobility Director, PwC International Assignment Services

Standard Chartered economist, Asia, Jonathan Koh

"On fiscal sustainability, the government noted that it will pursue new investments using a differentiated fiscal strategy - this means taking one approach for major infrastructure investments and another for recurrent social and security expenditures."

NUS Business School, Head of Department, Finance, Sumit Agarwal

"It is a very balanced Budget that is inclusive with thinking of the elderly the young the poor and also caring for the precious natural resources. The special emphasis on new technologies to grow small businesses and help employees become better trained in a changing world environment is remarkable and progressive."

British Council, Country Director, Mei-kwei Barker

"The continued investment into upskilling workers will go a long way to support not just their employability and re-employability, but also give Singaporeans a competitive edge necessary for navigating the future economy. Lifelong learning must include both the development of technical skills, as well as the acquisition of deeper, critical skills that are relevant and transferrable across industries. To this end, the onus of workforce transformation cannot lie with just the government. Employers, institutions and businesses must also share in the responsibility of committing to employee training and development, with a focus on sharpening the expertise of workers and facilitating their application of skills in the workplace."

ComfortDelGro Corporation, Group Chief Corporate Communications Officer, Tammy Tan

"We will be passing on the entire savings resulting from the reduction in the annual special tax for diesel taxis to our drivers."

KPMG Singapore

"Banks have been digitising their consumer banking operations rapidly over the past few years. This Budget's continued push for SMEs to adopt digital technology should see SME business banking go digital as well, especially in areas of digital payments and trade/cash management." - Leong Kok Keong, Head of Financial Services, KPMG in Singapore

"The government's taking up to 70 per cent risk on bank loans to companies less than 5 years old, and the extension of SME working capital loan scheme will help catalyse start-ups with innovative ideas, as these companies may need a certain amount of gestation period." - Jonathan Ho, Head of Enterprise Market, KPMG in Singapore

"In deepening enterprise capabilities, it's important that the Government has recognised the need to provide and tailor-make support and assistance to businesses based on their differing stages of development and needs. This is a good departure from the traditional broad brush approach which may not meet the needs of businesses." - Tay Hong Beng, Head of Tax, KPMG in Singapore

Medix, CEO, Sigal Atzmon

"The government deserves credit for implementing measures to tackle the challenges posed by a rapidly ageing population and the increasing cost of healthcare.

"But there is also a role that the private sector needs to play. Singapore's public hospitals are among the best in the world, but private hospitals are very expensive, the average length of stays are much longer and there's no transparency. We urge the government to improve oversight of the private system to reduce unwarranted healthcare variations, better manage length of stays and demand greater transparency over pricing and affordability."

Zebra Technologies, Regional Director for Southeast Asia, Lim Fang How

"We laud the Singapore government's efforts to help local businesses gain competitive edge to contest abroad. The next critical step will be in ensuring that local businesses have the confidence and knowledge needed to execute their digital transformation, and to know what the right technological solutions are to adopt."

For all of our Singapore Budget 2019 coverage, news, analysis, and infographics visit

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