Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong pledged to better protect the poor, elderly and the vulnerable through Budget 2020, in his 2020 New Year Message, which was delivered on New Year’s Eve.
In a press statement last month, the Ministry of Finance (MOF) confirmed that Budget 2020 is scheduled for presentation in February.
It indicated that the Budget will focus on “business growth, training and employment, support for families, and support for seniors”. It added that it is specifically looking at “how we can form stronger partnerships to address future opportunities and challenges facing Singapore”.
Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat, who is expected to become Singapore’s fourth Prime Minister sometime after the next election, said the Budget is a strategic financial plan to address both near-term issues and also how to build future Singapore together.
Earlier, PM Lee told the press that the Budget 2020 will be strong and suitable to the needs of the Singapore economy, given the state of the world economy.
Highlighting uncertainties around Brexit, the US-China trade tensions and the spat between Japan and South Korea, Mr Lee said it is not surprising that Singapore’s economy has slowed down given the slow growth globally, and that Singapore is preparing for uncertainties based on the state of the world today.
He said: “Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat and all the other agencies are working towards preparing a Budget which will be strong, and suitable to the state of the world, and what the Singapore economy needs.”
In his New Year Message, Mr Lee gave more hints as to what Singaporeans can expect in the Budget. Indicating that it will provide support for households, businesses and workers, he said:
“In the upcoming Budget, we will support businesses to raise their productivity and build new capabilities. We will help workers, especially mid-career PMETs, to retrain, acquire new skills, find new jobs and stay employable. We will help households with their cost of living. We will improve social safety nets that protect the poor, the elderly, and the vulnerable.”
Calling these plans “practical measures to improve the lives of Singaporeans”, Mr Lee added that it is important to remember that the “intangible ethos of a society is even more vital” than bread and butter issues. Revealing that the intangible ethos of Singapore society is integral in ensuring social mobility for all Singaporeans and in ensuring a bright future for the nation’s children, he said:
“But one lesson from history is that while we must stay on top of bread and butter issues, in the long run the intangible ethos of a society is even more vital. Here, in this island-nation, we aim to build a fair and just society, where growth and prosperity benefits everyone, and the human spirit can flourish.”
The Government’s plans for Budget 2020 have fuelled speculation over the timing of the next General Election (GE).
Many expect the next GE to be around the corner after the Government announced that the Electoral Boundaries Review Committee had been convened in August last year. The formation of the committee – which reviews the boundaries of the electoral map – marks the first firm step towards the next GE.
Some political observers and members of the public believe that the next GE could be called in the first quarter of this year, after Budget 2020.