We will not beat around the bush. Budget 2016 bored of us. Nobody, including Heng Swee Keat, would ever want to hear that his or her speech was boring, but that is just how we felt about the budget presentation.
Don’t get us wrong. We are not saying that the budget was a bad or lousy budget for us living in Singapore. In fact, it was a prudent budget aimed at supporting Singapore’s economy in key areas. Being the former Managing Director of the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), we are sure Mr Heng is as qualified as they come by for the role.
When we read the reports published by mainstream Singapore media, it almost felt like we were watching two different budgets. The mainstream media managed to drum up some excitement regarding the budget announcement. We do not share the same excitement.
More Of The Usual
We just feel there isn’t a need to feign excitement over the initiatives that have already been in place for the past few years. Here’s a quick recap of what actually was announced.
GST Vouchers and Service & Conservancy Charges rebates continue for this year. The Silver Support Scheme, which was announced last year, was mentioned in detail.
SkillsFuture, which was also announced a year ago, was talked about again, with the Minister mentioning one positive example as a sign that things are going well.
We are not saying that these are things that should not be in place, or that we do not appreciate them, rather, that there is simply nothing innovative or exciting about these initiatives for Singaporeans to look forward to.
Introducing The Jurong Innovative District
Unsurprisingly, we decided to increase innovation within Singapore by attempting to confine it within a new Jurong District.
Innovation is usually tied to entrepreneurship. It is about challenging the status quo, regardless of where you are. It is about creating an environment within the company that encourages every single employee to do things in a better way. It is about trying new things that you have never done before, and not being afraid to fail.
Innovation is something that is in each and every one of us. You do need to be working in the future Jurong Innovative District to be innovative (and all the best if you are staying in Pasir Ris).
Unfortunately, the Jurong Innovative District is unlikely to be something that would ever be meaningful for most us, unless we end up working for a start-up there. A nice video was created for it, but we suspect that is as far as what the majority of people would personally experience.
More Support For SMEs
Most of us in Singapore work for SMEs. The bottomline is that a host of credit schemes and corporate tax rebates were announced. Unless you are the Finance Manager of the company (and if you are, good luck to you reporting to your boss about how these schemes impact the business), the rest of us probably do not have any idea how this will ultimately affect us on a personal level.
Other Fringe Announcements
Other fringe announcements meant to spice up an otherwise boring budget did not fulfil its objective either. Minister Heng spent a good 5 minutes attempting to justify why a new $250 million Outward Bound Singapore (OBS) camp on Coney Island was critical to the continued success of our education system (just go ahead and build it already, this project does not deserve this much scrutiny). Some robotic initiatives that we suspect 99% of Singaporeans do not care about was announced, and of course, more money will now be given to parents of newborn children, along with the token introduction of a Kidstart Pilot Programme for some children.
Only time will tell if these initiatives would be successful.
Where Were The Gamechangers?
Everyone loves a gamechanger in life. Be it a new President or the next Fandi Ahmad. These gamechangers were unfortunately lacking in this year’s budget, which was surprising given how much time was spent telling us the importance of innovation.
For example, there were no initiatives pertaining to how we can continue to support new mothers as they attempt to cope between caring for their newborn child and having to continue progressing in their careers. We did not talk about how fathers can be pillars of support to their wives during this critical period, by possibly having more paternal leave on top of the current 2 weeks.
Our NS men continue to be neglected in the budget, and in our opinion, taken for granted. Little or no initiatives have ever been introduced to help them pursue their education journey or recognise their importance to Singapore that is constantly brought up.
Neither did we see any initiatives to help families that have special needs family members who are unable to work and provide a living for themselves.
In conclusion, what we would say is that this year’s budget essentially maintained the status quo, with nothing unexpected or game changing introduced. Support has been given to certain sectors to help the companies transform, with the hopes that their success trickle down to the people. On a personal level however, the initatives feel weak.
We can’t say we were disappointed, because our expectations were never that high to begin with, but we will not pretend like we are excited with things to come in the next year. Seems like the government telling us to knuckle down in the year ahead really.
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