Opposition advocates generous spending, but prudence is how we saved $5.6b to deal with emergency

One thing consistent in opposition demands, is that the country spend more money on welfare. The problem is this approach has caused many other countries to be straddled in debt forever. On the other hand, Singapore has managed to save money and set-aside a current term surplus of $18.7b! This is how we manage to pull the $5.6b out to counter the effects of the virus, save jobs and grow the economy – all without having to borrow.

It is very easy to be a politician but not so easy to be an administrator. As a politician, you tell people there will be tax cuts and that welfare has to increase.

As an administrator, you have to carefully manage the spending otherwise uncontrolled borrowing can wipe out your country.

This is how many Western countries campaigned themselves into a tragedy. The U.S. Debt today stands at $22.7 trillion. Britain stands at £1.80 trillion. If there not enough taxes to fund the running of a country, then the government has to borrow – it is that simple.

Unsustainable welfare is money that is easily handed out, but impossible to reverse. In some of these countries, the citizens have very little personal responsibility… The government pays for everything from bus fares to unemployment. Singapore on the other hand has designed a system where every citizen is partly responsible for his own livelihood.

In Lee Kuan Yew’s words, we are a “fair…but not welfare society” (Memoirs of Lee Kuan Yew).

It is not just saving money, but we know how to invest in areas where there are returns to the country. The building of Jewel for example, has economic returns to the nation as a whole. The rejuvenating of heartlands bring returns to individual owners of the HDBs. If you view it that way, you can see that Singapore doesn’t “spend” money, it invests.

And where it does spend, it spends in areas where it helps the people – better hospitals, bolstering defence, helping the needy and helping companies create jobs to hire more Singaporeans.

All this is easier said than done. If it wasn’t for a disciplined administration from day one, an administration that stays strictly to the policies they designed and not fall victim to influence and politics, we wouldn’t have this surplus year after year. Today, we have the Covid virus to deal with… What will happen tomorrow? A more lethal virus? War? Terrorists detonate a device in our country?

If the opposition is serious about winning votes – tell us how they can ensure this surplus when they take over as government. If they cannot, it is just empty talk.

Note: If you’re interested, 2020 is forecasted to see a deficit of $10.9b. That means we are spending more than we are collecting in taxes. It is through prudent spending that the government set aside $18.7b to cushion the impact of this deficit. Without having to dip into past reserves.

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