NTUC Secretary General Lim Swee Say says that increasing resources, through a growing economy and employment, will ensure that Singapore does not end up becoming a welfare state.
“Instead of having to balance future Budgets, by cutting back on spending, we believe it is better to balance future Budgets by growing our economy and revenue,” said the labour Chief.
The Workers Party is in support of the Budget Proposals, but added that more could be done. Pritam Singh questioned if SkillsFuture Credit – where Singaporeans aged 25 and above will receive an initial credit of S$500 for work skills-related courses in the first quarter of next year – is enough of an incentive to motivate Singaporeans to upgrade themselves.
“…the UK government has sought to provide some basic courses for free, in addition to extending study loans repayable only after a worker exceeded a certain salary,’ said the opposition member.
Nominated Member of Parliament (NMP) Kuik Shiao-Yin however, has called on Singapore to be courageous in rewarding innovation. This would involve re-examining and drastically changing what the country measures and rewards at the national level.
“Outside of the WDA (Workforce Development Agency) and MOE (Ministry of Education), there is a radical new world of learning out there, multiple platforms, crazy new formats, unpredictable teachers, a diversity of skills that nobody can predict could be useful or not useful to a person’s development,” said the Member.
She cited the example of ex Apple CEO Steve Jobs, a person who studied calligraphy in his 20s and never expected that it would give him the aesthetic sense that distinguished Apple apart from every other tech company in the world. The Member quoted that a Singaporean would have said: ‘Study calligraphy got money meh?’ So please let us use SkillsFuture to learn whatever we want, however we want, wherever we want.
Pointing out that the increased petrol duty had been labelled as the “biggest stink” in this year’s budget by car users, Jurong GRC Member of Parliament Ang Wei Neng said the move appears unwise.
The member calculated that the increased petrol duty would yield only about S$177 million a year, or net revenue of S$33 million in the first year after the one-off road tax rebate.
“If this budget is an election year budget as framed by Ms Rachel Chang of The Straits Times in her commentary, then the S$33 million gain from the petrol duty hike does not appear to be a clever move,” he said.
Some businesses have expressed disappointment with this year’s Budget, saying that they have been struggling with soaring costs, and the Budget does little to alleviate their problems. MPs questioned if the Government is listening enough, or is it prepared to allow local firms to leave the country to operate in a cheaper environment.
Ang Mo Kio GRC MP Inderjit Singh said longer term cost-reduction are needed. “For the longer term, we need to identify and resolve some deeper structural factors in the economy, which have led to high business costs in Singapore. This needs a focused, experienced and diverse team to study the factors for a concerted period of time.”
The Member urged the Government to focus on this and to set up a Cost Competitiveness Committee like what Singapore did 30 years ago to address the same type of problems in 1985.