SINGAPORE: Yet another economist has forecast that Finance Minister Lawrence Wong’s upcoming Budget 2024 speech will expand on the Assurance Package cash payouts scheme to help Singaporeans cope with the rising cost of living.

Predicting that the Budget is likely to include measures to help alleviate the impact of the cost of living pressures and the recent Goods and Services Tax (GST) hike, RHB Chief Economist Barnabas Gan said that these measures might take the form of more cash payouts and Community Development Council (CDC) vouchers.

He told Singapore Business Review (SBR): “We expect policymakers to provide additional support, potentially through further enhancements to the Assurance Package, to assist vulnerable families in coping with persistent, albeit rising, inflation.”

“This includes measures like enhancing cash payouts under the Assurance Package and utility rebates, along with the possibility of a one-off cost-of-living special cash payment to alleviate the impact of the recent GST rate hike and the rise in utility expenses.”

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The economist added, “We foresee the potential for additional CDC vouchers or a one-off top-up to PSEA to support Singaporean households further.”

Mr Gan’s predictions mirror the expectations of two UOB economists, who also recently forecasted that the Budget would involve cash payouts for citizens.

UOB Senior Economist Alvin Liew and Associate Economist Jester Koh told SBR earlier that the government might enhance cash payouts and U-save utility rebates under the existing Assurance Package, accompanied by a possible one-off cost-of-living special cash payment in FY24.

Like Mr Gan, the UOB economists also said they anticipate additional CDC vouchers for each Singaporean household or one-off top-ups to Personal Skills Development Accounts (PSEA), Edusave, or Child Development Accounts (CDA).

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Aside from measures to help households, Mr Gan forecasts that the upcoming budget will likely focus on strengthening global competitiveness, workforce transformation, and business support.

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Mr Gan said he expects the Budget to include measures to help businesses develop sustainability capabilities and seize new growth opportunities.

Anticipating a pivotal role in technology and sustainability, he also emphasized prioritizing talent development and enhancing productivity by leveraging emerging trends. He envisioned Budget 2024 concentrating on building capabilities to meet the evolving demands of the business landscape.

RHB also anticipates enhancements to the Workfare Skills Support (WSS) scheme, promoting inclusivity among low-wage workers and encouraging their participation in training.

Mr Gan stressed the need for Singapore to invest in lifelong learning, particularly targeting mid-career workers, to equip them with the skills necessary for the dynamic business environment.

Noting the significant role played by small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Singapore’s economy, Mr Gan also said that he foresees budget measures supporting the adoption of digital and automation solutions.

He added that tax incentives are expected to attract talent, aiming to fortify the backbone of the economy, given that SMEs account for 99% of enterprises and employ 72% of the country’s workforce.