Chairman of the Government Parliamentary Committee
for Finance, Trade & Industry
Members of the Media,
Ladies & gentlemen,
1. 2016 Economic Environment
The global financial news have been bleak for the last few months. In Singapore, 2016 growth was forecasted to come in as low as 1 to 3 percent, making it the most pessimistic projection in over a decade.
Will the ASEAN Economic Community, with its promise of being a single market and production base, and a freer movement of goods, services, investments, skilled labour and flow of capital, alleviate the envisaged pain? What can Singapore businesses do to exploit such new opportunities and what help will businesses need?
There were a few moments of euphoria in 2015, with the Jubilee Budget and the celebrations of Singapore’s 50 years of being a new nation.
SkillsFuture, with a commitment of over $1 billion per year from 2015 till 2020, will target to retrain and retool capabilities to meet the new challenges we face. Singapore faces a unique challenge of being one of the most rapidly-ageing countries in the world, with low birth rates and a growing resistance towards foreign labour.
What is the balance between sustaining an economy whilst trying to put Singaporeans first? With a shrinking labour force and resistance to foreign labour, how do we keep the economy ticking? The recent news that seven secondary schools with insufficient demand will not be receiving Secondary 1 students may indicate that down the road, new entries to the workforce will shrink dramatically. Can the social structure accommodate the inevitable growth of migrants – or what is termed the new citizens?
3. Job Creation
Finance Minister, Mr Heng Swee Keat, is chairing the Committee for the Future Economy. The Committee is tasked to look into key areas such as new growth areas, corporate innovation, jobs, urban infrastructure and connectivity.
To rely more on a shrinking local workforce and to keep foreign labour to essentials, productivity has once again become a key concern.
4. Conflicting needs
The need to sustain an economy requires well-trained and educated labour. Our population is shrinking and thus we need to introduce new citizens. The input of new cultures, social norms, etc is clearly causing growing friction amongst different segments of the community. What can be done to smoothen this transition to a stage when the dust settles?
I believe our panellists are ready to share their views on what they think the focus areas should be for Budget 2016.
This year, the theme for our Pre-Budget Roundtable is “Repositioning for Future Growth”. Our discussion today will be structured around the following areas:
-Economic and Business Outlook
-Enhancing Productivity and Innovation for Future
-Growth as an Individual
-Caring for the Family and the Society
We hope our panellists can provide their insights and thoughts on some of these issues.
I look forward to a vibrant and thought-provoking discussion.
Before we begin, I would like to express my sincere thanks to the panellists, as well as our observers from relevant government agencies, for taking time from their busy schedules to be at this roundtable.
I now invite my co-chair Mr Liang Eng Hwa to deliver his keynote address.