I am delighted to co-chair this session with Ms Jessica Tan, Chairman of Government Parliamentary Committee for Finance and Trade & Industry, Member of Parliament East Coast GRC & Managing Director, Microsoft Singapore.
In the early part of this year, ICPAS had held a very successful Inaugural Pre-Budget Roundtable with industry stalwarts and thought leaders sharing with one another what had worked and what had not worked from the 2009 Budget. Gathered here today are 15 distinguished leaders who will share with us in their perspective, whether the 2010 Budget will be able to sustain Singapore’s economic growth in the next 10 years and become a truly livable city for citizens and foreigners alike. Today’s Roundtable will circle around the 3Rs which talks about the sustainability of the Singapore’s economy in perspective:
• Is the 2010 Budget directed at the Right Objectives? • Is the 2010 Budget of the Right Size? • Is the 2010 Budget making the Right Move?
In his Budget Announcement, Minister for Finance, Mr Tharman, shared with Parliament that the Government budget position had turned out better than anticipated. The economy had, for 2009, contracted only 2% instead of the 2.1% earlier estimated. The 2009 budget position was in tangent with the economic results, with a deficit of S$2.9 billion as compared to the $8.7 billion expected a year ago.
More encouraging news came just two days shy of Mr Tharman’s Budget Speech. The Ministry of Trade and Industry had announced that its 2010 growth forecast for Singapore will be raised from 3% to 5% to 4.5% to 6.5%. This comes against a backdrop of a stronger than expected global economic recovery, increased world trade flows, robust recovery in Asia led by China and a surprisingly strong improvement in the US economy.
Such promising signs indicate that the worst is behind us and Singapore is recovering from “The Great Recession”. Alas, the storm has not yet blown over and the clouds remain on the horizon. Will the global economy be thrown off balance again once governments withdraw the stimulus package? Will the looming credit trouble in Greece and Spain spread and cause a wave of sovereign defaults around the globe?
The Government has accepted the key thrusts of the Economic Strategies Committee’s (ESC) recommendations. The 2010 Budget was meticulously crafted to transform Singapore over the next decade with a key focus on raising productivity based on skill and innovation, growing globally competitive companies and including all Singaporeans in growth.
The goal is to increase productivity by 2% to 3% annually over the next 10 years via a 3-prong approach: restructuring the economy towards high-value activities; upgrading the individual industries and enterprises; and raising the skills and creative potential of workers. If we achieve this goal, Singapore will be able to sustain a healthy rate of economic growth of 3% to 5% a year, real incomes will increase by one-third in 10 years and the lower-income earning citizens are uplifted.
GROWING GLOBALLY COMPETITIVE COMPANIES
Deputy Chairman and Executive Director of the Government of Singapore Investment Corp, Dr Tony Tan, says Asia could see a "Golden Age" in the next decade with emerging markets like Brazil, Russia, India and China probably becoming the world’s largest economies. This presents Singapore companies a world of opportunities to expand in these markets – in sectors like clean energy, waste and water management, healthcare, education and transport management. To help local players grow into globally competitive companies in order to capitalize on these opportunities, the Government has introduced a slew of initiatives which includes Partnerships for Capability Transformations (PACT), Public-Private Co-Innovation Partnership and Angel Investors Scheme.
INCLUDING ALL SINGAPOREANS IN GROWTH
Mr Tharman has assured that “every Singaporean shares in the country’s growth drive”. Lower and middle-income households will benefit from increased parent and dependant reliefs. The recognition of women who support their husbands has prompted the revision of wife relief to spouse relief. The shift from flat property tax rate to progressive tax rates based on the annual values of properties will save most folks $240 or more a year.
I look forward to a robust and stimulating Roundtable whereby new thoughts and novel ideas may be hatched over the next 2 hours.
Before we open the Roundtable session, Please allow me to invite my co-chair, Ms Jessica Tan, to say a few words.