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Singapore Budget 2019 Liveblog : Live Updates And Commentary As It Happens

Stay tuned for up-to-date Singapore Budget 2019 announcements and our commentary on what it means for you.

Singapore’s FY2019 Budget Statement will be delivered by Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat on 18 February, 2019 at 3.30pm.

This page will be automatically refreshed periodically, so stay tuned as we bring you the latest announcements as it happens, along with our commentary on what it means for Singapore and Singaporeans.


Singapore Budget 2019 Liveblog

3:15pm: Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat has arrived in Parliament and will be delivering this year’s Budget speech momentarily at 3.30pm. This will be his fourth Budget speech as Finance Minister.

3:30pm: Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat has started delivering his Budget 2019 speech.

3:33pm: Minister Heng talks about major economic trends: Increasing importance of Asia; Rapid technological advance; Decline in support for globalisation all around the world. These present opportunities and challenges. Singapore must respond with grit and determination, capitalising on our strengths.

3:35pm: Singapore’s openness and connectivity are strengths. Thus, the importance of continuing to enhance our multiculturalism. Singapore needs  strives to be a global node for enterprise and innovation.

3:37pm: Theme of Budget 2019: Strong, United Singapore.

3:38pm: Call on all Singaporeans to work with the government to achieve all these goals.

A Safe And Secure Singapore

3:40pm: Singapore is vulnerable. Diplomacy and deterrence has always been Singapore’s approach. Diplomacy with Ministry of Foreign Affairs promotes friendship and a rules-based world order, but the SAF is ready to defend Singapore and her interests if diplomacy fails.

3:41pm: Threats remain high to Singapore’s safety, such as terrorism, cyber attacks, and fake news. Private and public sector needs to work together. For instance, a Home Team Science and Technology Agency will be set up to help the Ministry of Home Affairs enhance its capabilities.

3:43pm: Singaporeans must stay vigilant against threats that seek to divide us. National Service has been critical in instilling this understanding.

3:44pm: Digital defence has been added as a 6th pillar of Total Defence, to allow us to use technology safely as we advance as a Smart Nation. Singapore will continue to invest to keep Singapore safe and secure. Everyone has a part to play in defending our way of life.

A Vibrant And Innovative Economy

3:45pm: Singapore’s economy has grown. Real median incomes have grown by more than 3% each year. Over the years, sound fiscal policies have kept inflation stable in Singapore and protected Singapore from global crisis.

3:47pm: In 2016, 23 Industry Transformation Roadmaps were launched to guide innovation on the individual, company and industry level, covering 80% of the economy.

3:49pm: There is much more we can do to support industry transformation. Three key thrusts to do this: 1) Build deep enterprise capabilities 2) Build deep worker capabilities 3) Encouraging strong partnerships within Singapore and round the world.

3:50pm: Efforts have bore fruit ever since StartupSG was launched two years ago. Today, there are around 220 Venture Capital (VC) deals worth around S$4.2 billion in total, in contrast to about 80 deals worth about S$160 million in total.

3:52pm: MAS policies in place to encourage and promote VC firms to set up shop in Singapore, including co-funding deals. Minister Heng announced that $100 million will be set aside for the SME co-investment fund, for Singapore-based SMEs that are ready to scale up. This is expected to bring in $200 million in funding.

3:54pm: Working capital remains a critical pillar for SMEs. Enterprise Singapore will continue to expand their policies and support to enable SMEs to have access to capital.

3:56pm: More initiatives to support SMEs to go digital and integrate more technology into their businesses to raise efficiency and enhance productivity.

3:58pm: The government has also been adopting technology to make it easier for companies and citizens to transact with the government, such as integrated portals for a more convenient one-stop solution for businesses.

4:00pm: Today, there are 200,000 enterprises in Singapore, with sizes ranging from MNCs to small neighbourhood shops. Support will be delivered by the government in an enterprise-centric way, in a tiered manner, based on their needs.

4:01pm: In this competitive economy, deepening the skills and capabilities of each worker is critical.

4:03pm: Over the years, the government has schemes like WorkFare, Adapt & Grow, and professional conversion programmes to help Singaporeans realise their full potential. More than 1.1 billion has been invested in 2017 for these initiatives.

4:05pm: Workers need to embrace changes and have the right mindset, while firms need to step up in retraining and job design.

4:07pm: New professional conversion programmes will be launched in areas like blockchain, to allow our workforce to enter high growth areas.

4:08pm: Productivity growth has been uneven across sectors. In particular, the services sector remains highly manpower dependent. Relying heavily on foreign talent is not the way forward. We need sustainable inflow of foreign workers, while enhancing our processes and skillset of local workers.

4:10pm: Thus, the workforce quota for services will be revised. The dependency ratio ceiling (DRC) will be revised from 40% to 38% in 2020 and 35% in 2021. The S Pass Sub-DRC will also be revised from 15% currently, to 13% in 2020 and 10% in 2021.

4:12pm: Transitional measures will be extended to help companies transition to a more manpower-light state, and consideration can be made on a case-by-case basis.

4:13pm: Trade associations can help local companies build partnerships, for example the Singapore FinTech Association and Singapore Business Federation.

4:15pm: From the governmental level, Free Trade Agreements have been expanded to give Singapore businesses to more markets.

4:17pm: Industry 4.0 will change the way Singapore invests and trades. Singapore will continue to build on her status as a key Asian node, allowing her to ride the wave of Industry 4.0.

4:19pm: The government will continue to invest in R&D in our research institutions. Government will set aside $19 billion as part of a 5-year plan. Efforts have already borne fruit.

4:21pm: Minister Heng highlights examples of local research organisations like A*STAR working with academic institutions to bring the fruits of R&D to positively impact businesses. In areas like agriculture, manufacturing, and science.

4:24pm: The spirit of entrepreneurship is important to solve problems and pursue innovation. Minister Heng cited Creative Technologies’s Sim Wong Hoo as an example of walking the ground and persisting despite challenges.

4:26pm: The government will partner companies to provide young Singaporeans with exposure of working overseas, to strengthen our global-ready workforce.

4:29pm: In summary, Singapore’s efforts to be future-ready is progressing well, and we must press on. Economic transformation is critical. $3.6 billion will go to help workers thrive in tomorrow’s economy. $1 billion will go to help firms build thrive in the new economy. These efforts are mutually supportive.

4:30pm: Workers, unions, the government must continue to work together to create opportunities for our people and enterprises.

A Caring And Inclusive Society

4:32pm: Singapore faces challenges like social mobility and ageing population. Singapore has doubled increased social spending to $30 billion.

4:34pm: Singapore’s social measures are around three focuses: 1) Uplifting Singaporeans to maximise opportunities, particularly for the disadvantaged children, as well as helping older Singaporeans earn more and save more retirement 2) Providing greater assurance for healthcare, while helping seniors stay active, healthy, engaged. 3) Fostering a community of care and contribution.

4:36pm: The government is working pro-actively to provide children and their families with targeted support. Initiatives like KidSTART and the Uplifting Pupils in Life and Inspiring Families Taskforce continue to strengthen after-school care for disadvantaged students.

4:38pm: This support continues as Singaporeans transition to the workforce, with lower wage workers continuing to receive income supplements. From 2020, the government will raise the qualifying income cap to $2,300 per month.

4:40pm: More companies are employing older workers beyond the retirement scheme, thanks to special employment credits, which will be extended to 31 December 2020.

4:43pm: The government approach is to help Singaporeans be the best they can be at each stage of life, enhancing dignity and independence.

4:44pm: Major changes have been made to ensure healthcare is accessible, affordable and comprehensive.

4:45pm: To enhance access in neighbourhoods, CHAS subsidises visits to GPs and dentists. The CHAS benefits will be enhanced in 3 ways. 1) Expanding CHAS benefits to those with chronic conditions, regardless of income. 2) CHAS Orange card holders will be subsidised for common illnesses 3) Increase benefits for those with complex conditions.

4:47pm: MediShield Life risk pools to help us afford healthcare in the event we fall severely ill. CareShield Life also supports us for individuals who require long-term support. Government will offer participation incentives and subsidies, so Singaporeans can enjoy greater peace of mind. ElderFund will be launched next year to support those with low MediSave balances.

4:49pm: This year, the government will set aside $3.1 billion, which together with the $2 billion earmarked last year, will form a Long Term Care fund to provide for ElderFund and subsidies for Singaporeans who need it.

Merdeka Generation Package

4:52pm: Merdeka Generation Package consists of five main components. 1) $100 top-up to PAssion Silver cards 2) MediSave top-up of $200 per year for 5 years until 2023 3) Additional CHAS subsidies at a higher rate than CHAS Blue 4) MediShield Life premium subsidies for life 5) Additional participation incentives of $1,500 for joining CareShield Life

4:55pm: The Merdeka Generation Package will benefit about 500,000 Singaporeans, and they can start to look forward to receive their cards from June 2019.

4:57pm: The Package is expected to cost the government $8 billion (in today’s dollars) over the lifetime of those of the Merdeka Generation. More than $6 billion will be set aside this year to meet this commitment.

Making A Difference In The Community

5:00pm: This spirit to help one another is part of the Singapore DNA, crossing ethnic lines. Individuals, non-profit organisations and companies have been partnering the government to help others in the community.

5:02pm: SGCares was started to bring people, public and private sectors. The government will build on this momentum with three pillars. 1) Grow the spirit of volunteerism among Singapore’s youth. 2) Enable and encourage more seniors to contribute to the community at work and when they retire 3) Champion volunteerism among those in the public service.

Singapore Bicentennial Bonus

5:06pm: $200 million will be set aside in a bicentennial fund, with dollar-for-dollar matching to encourage giving.

5:06pm: $1.1 billion will also set aside for a bicentennial bonus to commemorate this momentous occasion. This consists of GST Voucher – Cash, Workfare bonus, and personal income tax relief, capped at $200.

5:10pm: In addition, there will be a $150 Edusave top-up for primary and secondary school students, top-ups of up to $500 PSEA accounts for Singaporeans aged 17 to 20, and CPF top-ups of up to $1,000 top-up for eligible Singaporeans aged 50 to 64 in 2019.

5:12pm: Aside from these bonuses, SC&C rebates will be provided to households of between 1.5 to 3.5 months.

Building The Singapore Of Tomorrow

5:13pm: Budget 2019 supports the government’s long-term strategy to build Singapore for the future.

5:15pm: URA Masterplan 2019 will guide Singapore’s urban development over the next 10 to 15 years. We need to start with the HDB, where most Singaporeans live.

5:16pm: To improve Singapore’s connectivity to the world, we will increase our airports and seaports, and within Singapore with new MRT lines.

5:17pm: Singapore cannot ignore the effects of climate change. In line with the Climate Action Plan launched in 2016, Singapore is implementing measures to protect herself against rising sea levels.

5:18pm: We must work towards being a zero-waste nation. The carbon tax, which will kick in soon, is an important signal that represents Singapore’s commitment tackling climate change. A zero waste plan will be launched later in 2019.

5:20pm: Measures were announced to restructure diesel taxes.

5:22pm: Energy efficient technologies and smart mobility solutions contribute to making our built-environment more pleasant and sustainable.

5:23pm: HIP II and VERS are important policies that help keep Singapore’s living environment first-class over the long years.

5:24pm: Long-term planning and sound fiscal policies give Singapore the ability to respond to strategic challenges. We cannot take this for granted.

5:26pm: Paying for recurrent spending should be done responsibly with recurrent revenues.

5:28pm: Minister Heng announced revised concessions for travellers.

5:29pm: GST increase will be cushioned with an offset package, with more given to lower and middle income households.

5:30pm: The aim to keep the overall tax burden low. This gives citizens the freedom to choose who they invest, spend and save. GST of 9% is comparatively low, especially when compared to other OECD countries. More measures will be implemented to enhance Singapore’s tax and transfers to ensure it is fair, progressive and pro-growth.

5:32pm: Budget 2019 remains expansionary, with an expected net deficit of $7.1 billion. Singapore has adequate funds from this term of government to fund this deficit. There will be no draw on past reserves.

In Closing

5:34pm: Our people have shown that we can take the long view, adapt with the times, and thrive. Singaporeans today support each other, regardless of race, language or religion.

5:36pm: The changes ahead will be faster and deeper. Budget 2019 outlines how Singapore plans to turn challenges into opportunities.

5:37pm: Even while investing for the future, Budget 2019 retains our fiscal discipline. Taking care of our children, and their children, is a core value that Singapore must never lose sight of.

5:38pm: (End of Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat’s Budget 2019 Statement)


Watching Singapore Budget 2019

Those who are interested to catch Minister Heng’s Singapore Budget 2019 speech with us can do so via the following platforms:

Television: Channel NewsAsia  (with Chinese voice-over in dual sound mode)
Radio: NewsRadio 938LIVE
Mobile App: Mediacorp’s Toggle (on iOS and Android)
Browser: Singapore Budget 2019 Webcast

Singapore Pre-Budget Reading List

As you look forward to Singapore Budget 2019, you can take a read of this selection of articles that help give background and context on the depth and breath of challenges that Singapore needs to confront as a country.

Changes to the economy and workplace from technology is happening globally, including in Singapore. Learn about how technology has changed jobs in Singapore – and what you can do to seize opportunities of the future.

While ad-hoc bonuses make the most headlines, it is the existing financial support given to Singapore families that have the greatest impact financially. Check out this Guide To Grants & Subsidies For Middle-Income Households In Singapore.

Healthcare spending continues to be an issue of national importance. Here’s why Singapore continues to increase healthcare expenditure, despite already enjoying some of the best healthcare outcomes in the world.

During Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s National Day Rally speech last year, he announced the Merdeka Generation Package. Here’s an early preview of what the Merdeka Generation can expect to receive.

Much of the recent CPF policy announcements are meant to ensure Singaporeans’ retirement adequacy. Understanding the financial implications of an ageing Singapore will help give some perspective of the challenges ahead.

Ultimately, all of the policies and initiatives announced in the Singapore Budget is funded by taxes: personal income tax, corporate taxes, property taxes and the soon-to-be-increased Goods & Service Tax (GST).

Read Also: The National Budget: Spending Today vs Investing For The Future? Which Is More Important?

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