Singapore’s Budget for 2021 will focus on how Singapore can come out of the COVID-19 crisis stronger and forge partnerships to meet the challenges ahead as one people.
Themed ‘Emerging Stronger Together’ the Budget’s priority is to help workers and businesses to adapt, innovate and grow. Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat said in his Budget speech, “To secure our future, we must build new capabilities in our people and businesses, and find new ways to work together effectively. Within and across industries, and beyond our shores.”
Last year, the Government introduced five Budgets, committing close to S$100 billion, or 20 per cent of GDP, in measures to mitigate the impact of COVID-19. Heng said that while Singapore will be ending the financial year with a record budget deficit, the past reserves built up by earlier generations meant that it could fund the deficit by opening the “national safe” three times.
The Government is required by the Constitution to run a balanced budget over each term of office, but Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has admitted that even a balanced budget would be very hard to achieve, as there was money that needed to be spent amid COVID-19 while the economy was still down.
With that, the Budget has continued with the Jobs Support Scheme for hard-hit sectors, SGUnitedJobs and Skills Package, COVID-19 Recovery Grant, as well as targeted support for worst-hit sectors: aviation, land transport (taxis/PHCs), arts and culture, and sports.
The Budget’s focus has also moved towards innovative and high-growth industries, with extending the Enterprise Financing Scheme – Venture Debt programme. A new Emerging Technology Programme will also co-fund costs of frontier technologies like AI, 5G, and trust technologies. New platforms to encourage prototyping and collaboration, like the Corporate Venture Launchpad, Open Innovation Platform, and Global Innovation Alliance will also be part of Singapore’s investment into innovation.
“In the face of major changes, we must move from just counter-cyclical fiscal and monetary stabilisation policies, to structural economic policies to equip our businesses and workers with deep and future-ready capabilities,” explained Heng in his Budget speech.