Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat has delivered a Budget which is strategic, calibrated and confident.
Coming as a surprise, was his announcement of a budget surplus of S$9.6 billion, far exceeding the forecasted surplus of S$1.9 billion.
As noted by the Finance Minister, while we address short term concerns, the Singapore Budget must be a strategic and integrated plan to position Singapore for the future.
One notable measure to help companies thrive includes plans to use some of this year’s exceptional surplus to save ahead for future infrastructure expenditure. For example, S$5 billion has been set aside in the Rail Infrastructure Fund to pay for the new rail lines Singapore has planned.
To encourage companies to reduce emissions in pursuit of a smart, green and liveable city, details of the previously announced Carbon tax to be implemented from 2019 were also outlined.
I was also heartened to see measures to upgrade the skills of our workforce. One example is the expansion of the Tech Skills Accelerator scheme into sectors like manufacturing and professional services, where digital technologies are increasingly prevalent.
Another proposal is the piloting of a Capability Transfer Programme which supports the transfer of skills from foreign specialists to Singaporean workers.
At the same time, helping local companies cope with near-term cost pressures is not forgotten, with the extension of the Wage Credit Scheme for three more years.
A 250 percent tax deduction for donations made to Institutions of Public Character was also extended for another three years, to foster the spirit of giving among Singaporeans.
In totality, the combination of strategic measures announced this year strikes a balance between the need to be responsive in a rapidly changing world, while remaining fiscally prudent and socially inclusive. It focuses on helping companies to grow, while creating an environment which continues to be attractive to inward investment.
Ong Pang Thye
KPMG in Singapore