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Indranee Rajah: If we want to do more for people, we’ll have to spend more

We may have to choose between what's popular and what's right, she says




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Singapore—At the end of this year’s Budget Debate in Parliament, Ms Indranee Rajah, the Leader of the House, underlined that Singapore may have to make difficult choices in allocating funds as spending needs increase. 

On Monday (March 8), Parliament approved the S$107 billion Budget, following more than a week of debates during which MPs brought up a host of significant issues, including the environment, jobs, and mental health. 

Ms Indranee, also the Second Minister for Finance and National Development, warned that competing needs and the necessity to keep a tight rein on the Budget could mean having to face hard choices ahead.

She cited the goods and services (GST) tax hike as an example. It is likely to come up for debate again considering what the opposition MPs have said, she added.

“I wish only to leave Members with this thought: If we want to do more for our people, we will have to spend more.

In a tight fiscal situation, this Parliament will not be able to avoid having to make difficult decisions. We will have to choose between what may be popular and what is right. This will require political courage.”

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This year’s Budget Debate lasted 71½ hours in all, spanning nine days. 

In the first three days, lawmakers debated the Budget statement, presented by Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat on Feb 16.

On the following days, the different ministries rolled out their own budgets. Members of Parliament commented on them, asking questions and seeking clarifications.

According to straitstimes.com, Speaker of Parliament Tan Chuan-Jin said that the total number of  “cuts” filed this year, 569, is the highest in 10 years.

As the final day of the Budget Debate coincided with International Women’s Day, Mr Tan presented roses to all the women MPs.

“Mr Speaker, may I have your permission to distribute some handouts to our fair Members on the occasion of today being International Women’s Day?,” he asked in a moment of levity, and then gave himself permission to proceed. 

He went on to say, “If I may put this to all of you in Parliament: The question is that this being the year of celebrating our better halves in family and society, we, the lesser halves here in Chamber, present a small token to say ‘thank you’ to all our ladies here, whether serving as MPs, NCMPs, NMPs, clerks, interpreters, and our wonderful assistants.

“As many as are of that opinion say ‘Aye’? To the contrary say ‘No’?

“I think the Ayes have it, the Ayes have it.”

He reminded the House that 2021 is the sixtieth anniversary of the Women’s Charter in Singapore, adding the commitment to “strengthen our efforts.”


Read also: Indranee Rajah to Jamus Lim: No need for independent fiscal council

Indranee Rajah to Jamus Lim: No need for independent fiscal council

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