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COMMENT: Budget 2019 is unimaginative and all-too familiar


Lieutenant General
A $6.1 billion fund to meet the Merdeka Generation’s healthcare needs. A $1.1 billion handout to celebrate Singapore’s bicentennial. A payout of $4.6 billion over three years to small and medium-sized companies to raise their game in a disruptive world. Work permit and S-Pass quotas for service sector jobs to be further tightened.

Now, doesn’t all this sound familiar? Haven’t we seen similar goodies dished out in previous Budgets? There was the generous handout for the Pioneer Generation, while money was also given out during the 50th anniversary of Singapore’s independence. A helping hand has been regularly stretched out to Small and Medium Enterprises, while the whip was used on foreign worker quotas, with the latter a political device deployed since the rude awakening of the 2011 general election.

I set out looking for a surprise in Budget 2019. I found one – a small one at that — in the outlay for defence, security and diplomacy. A hefty 30 per cent of total expenditure will be set aside for these three areas, up from 27 per cent in last year’s Budget, with the lion’s share going to defence. Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat described it as “significant but indispensable”. With Malaysia’s recent actions in Singapore waters and the recent arrests of Islamic State sympathisers, a defence focus is understandable.

More at https://tinyurl.com/y4bwwpfa