Embrace spirit of enterprise, partnership to navigate future unknowns: Heng Swee Keat

SINGAPORE'S latest fiscal budget aims to help companies and individuals find the courage to explore the unknown future together, said Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat.

As such, the government is constantly reviewing how its policies can facilitate such an environment to help Singaporeans. Efforts include looking into how freelancers can be helped. A "major review" for severe disability insurance scheme ElderShield is also underway, Mr Heng said in an hour-long speech on Thursday.

"We must recognise that we're in a different world. What we need is not a cast-in-stone roadmap, but a spirit to constantly forge forward, and to find a new way forward," he said in his Budget 2017 round-up speech.

"Let us develop the deep capabilities - strengthen the spirit of enterprise to adapt and try for new things; work together in partnership to care for and support one another."

The speech comes after a three-day parliamentary debate on Budget 2017. It also comes three weeks after the Committee on the Future Economy (CFE) issued its recommendations on Singapore's economic transition.

Positioning Budget 2017 as a forward-looking one, Mr Heng said that the road ahead for Singapore is unknown. Disruptive technologies can arise from anywhere, while global value chains are seeing fundamental shifts.

Expanding upon the theme of enterprise made in his maiden Budget speech last year, Mr Heng on Thursday urged Singapore firms and workers to continue fostering that spirit. This is so that companies can survive in a disruptive future, and also tap into new markets overseas. Workers can also continually find new ways and means to stay relevant in the jobs market.

At the same time, all stakeholders must constantly look out for one another to mitigate the risks that future developments may bring.

The government is thus making efforts to ensure that the environment is right for companies, workers and society to be more resilient.

For example, the Manpower Minister will share more details in coming days on what can be done to help freelancers.

The Health Ministry is also doing a "major review" of ElderShield, said Mr Heng.

But to do all these, the government must be fiscally prudent. That means agencies must "do more, do better, with less".

It is also constantly reviewing Singapore's tax regime, and that includes the option of raising taxes.

"We will study all options carefully," said Mr Heng. "We must start planning early. This is the right and responsible way, rather than give promises to be dealt with by future governments and Singapore comes under fiscal strain."


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