This week is Budget week.
And for a change, we won’t see DPM Tharman Shanmugaratnam deliver the Budget speech. Instead, Minister for Finance Heng Swee Keat will deliver his first Budget Announcement since he was appointed to the Finance Ministry in October 2015.
But it sure seems like it will be a closely-watched Budget since the country is heading into a slowdown in the economy.
Here’s 10 things that hopefully will be addressed in his Budget speech:
a. For the Young
i. Curriculum for Future Economy
Our children are the future of the nation. Perhaps it would be timely to start equipping them with relevant knowledge and skills for the Future Economy.
Starting next year, 19 schools will offer programming for O Levels, perhaps other relevant subjects or modules can be offered such as data analytics or Financial Technology.
ii. Integrated Career Counselling
Often, students aren’t sure about what they want to do, or if what they want to do is relevant and viable for the future.
Some know what careers they want to pursue but are not sure how to get there.
With an integrated career counselling system which starts at preparing students in schools, these problems can be tackled early.
This was something which the NTUC recommended to the government to help PMEs and students capitalise on job opportunities of the future.
iii. Support for families: healthcare for children
Raising a child in Singapore is not easy on the purse strings. So to help families raise healthy children, perhaps the government should do more to enhance the support given to families to meet rising healthcare expenses for their children.
This would definitely be one way that families can start having children of their own and boost fertility rates in Singapore.
iv. Internship opportunities
Companies should be incentivised by the government to take in more interns, so that students are given a chance to acquire industry relevant experience and skills in order to do assimilate into the workforce easily when they start work.
Perhaps one criteria for companies to meet the standard needed for the incentive could be for the company to have a rigorous programme and assessment of work done for interns. This helps to minimise the different experience across different companies within the same industry.
b. For Workers
i. Annual increments and Annual Wage Supplements
For now, Annual Increments (AI) and Annual Wage Supplement (AWS) are paid out based on the economic climate and performance of the company. If the company’s performance is bad, workers get lesser or no AIs or AWS at all.
This is quite detrimental to Low Wage Workers, as their basic wage is already low. Not giving them the AI or AWS may mean they have lesser to take home.
Making it compulsory for companies to give out AI and AWS to Low Wage Workers will help this workers make ends meet.
Productivity has stagnated in the last few years. The only way that our economy can grow is if we improve productivity growth.
Perhaps one way for productivity to grow is for companies to share their best practices for productivity with each other. And one way to encourage companies to do that is for the government to incentivise companies to do so.
The NTUC also suggests that the various tripartite committees driving Sectoral Manpower Plans to set productivity benchmarks for businesses in their sectors to follow.
iii. CPF Contributions for Self-Employed
Self-employed workers do not have employers to make CPF contributions into their CPF accounts. Neither is it compulsory for them to contribute to their own CPF accounts.
Perhaps the government should do more to ensure this set of workers have the necessary CPF contributions which can help with their medical and retirement resource support.
iv. Strengthening Lifelong Learning
With the economic slowdown in the background, the only way to keep ourselves employed is to re-skill or take on a second skill.
This means that Lifelong Learning should be a part of our culture. In this aspect, the government needs to keep up the support for workers in this journey. Regular top-ups to SkillsFuture Credits is one way to help with this.
But in addition to that, more help to get Singaporeans started on this movement is needed.
v. Resilience Package
During the last economic downturn in 2009, a resilience package was given out to Singaporeans.
If the economic slowdown Singapore is experiencing currently worsens, the government should consider handing out a similar package to aid Singaporeans to tide through this difficult period.
The resilience package can be targeted at workers, companies and households.
c. For the Not-so-young
i. Periodic Top-ups to Medisave Account
Healthcare expenditure can be rather expensive today. With a longer life expectancy, mature workers have to worry about their retirement adequacy.
As such, one of the proposals put forward by the NTUC include periodic top-ups to the Medisave accounts for Singaporeans to assist them in the increase in healthcare costs.
Also, CPF contribution rates for workers above 55 years old could be reviewed to help them save more for retirement.
In just 3 days, we will hear from the Finance Minister himself. What would you expect him to address?