Four budgets are given out by the PAP government in just a few months. Totaling nearly S$93 billion, S$52billion or 55% comes from the reserves which are accumulated painstakingly by the previous generations of Singapore.
Since the announcement of the Fortitude budget, Singaporeans are divided in their opinions.
One school of thought criticizes the PAP for giving out 20% of the GDP which might further impact its economy and jeopardise the future generations. The reserves cannot be sustained at this rate and it is about time for the citizens to build up their resilience using this crisis as an opportunity.
Another school of thought argues that it is insufficient since the bulk of the budget goes into saving workers’ jobs. It does not help them directly since its emphasis lies heavily on encouraging existing workers to pick up new skills or to enhance their current professional knowledge. It does not benefit them directly.
Why can’t the PAP government just give out cash directly to every single citizen? Isn’t giving cash out an easier way out? Why is there a need to take the tougher route?
The reason is simple. The wise men say, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime”.
Singaporeans believe that the key to helping the poor is not by just giving them support such as money but by educating, training and empowering them. This is also how the nation can change the world’s poverty along the chain.
As early as 2013, Singapore has had a head start by “transforming and deepening its capabilities through skills upgrading and innovation”. The emphasis on examination results and paper qualifications is eased. The PAP government starts pushing aggressively for a culture of life-long learning, in which one’s continuous upgrade of skills and knowledge is as important as a tertiary education.
One key development in that shift is the setting up of the SkillsFuture program in 2014, which subsidizes and pay for courses ranging from IT to languages as a way to encourage people to pick up new skills that can help their careers.
A commentary article ‘Soon you may be competing with talent globally. The Fortitude Budget is a wake-up call in Today newspaper last week discusses how employers have rationalised that job seekers will not be restricted to work within the confines of their geographic boundaries after covid-19 settles. There is a great possibility that companies, including those in Singapore, might move out of the nation, bringing with them quality jobs since they are able to employ their workforce to work remotely across the globe. Some jobs will definitely disappear.
Addressing the nation on Monday, PM Lee Hsien Loong warned that this covid-19 crisis has changed the world’s structure permanently. Nations will no longer be interested in how they may be able to assist one another in developing the world into a better place for all but rather, to fight over how they will be able to take more of the pie. Singaporeans will be affected significantly as the world becomes more troubled and less prosperous. He has already given a less than subtle hint that if we do not help ourselves, no one else will.
Singapore’s CloudCover’s CEO Vishal Parpia, resonates with the training directive. In an interview with CNBC, he said that the coronavirus pandemic has forced companies to rapidly go digital and move more of their enterprises onto the cloud, adding that these changes are crucial for a firm’s long-term success. Some mid-size organisations are taking baby steps on their “innovation” initiatives while the smaller ones are completely unaware about or simply refuse to see how Artificial Intelligence (AI) can impact their market and business survival. Upskilling is a must or more businesses will go bust.
Going forward, the most effective way to protect Singaporeans is by ensuring that they are given the ‘fishing equipment’ to learn how to survive. The PAP with its experiences in overcoming crisis after crisis with success, has planned and served each 4-year term looking for avenues of how its ministries can be more efficient and productive with the use of AI. The party knows too well that to save one organization equates to saving the livelihoods of tens, hundreds and thousands of Singaporeans at one go.
The ‘ fishing equipment’ will come in the forms of Place-and-Train conversion programmes under the Adapt and Grow Initiative, and Company-Led Training programmes under the TechSkills Accelerator or TeSA initiative; SGUnited Traineeships; SGUnited Skills; and other training courses.
It is only with a quality job that a person can have the best welfare. It is only with this welfare that quality of life can be sustained through the generations.