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Budget likely to throw a short-term lifeline to firms

FRUGAL: Finance Minister Heng said the new Government must ensure it has resources when it needs to act later.


    Mar 24, 2016

    Budget likely to throw a short-term lifeline to firms

    NEWLY minted Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat will deliver his first Budget today in Parliament at 3.30pm.

    His speech is widely expected to focus on the economy given the ongoing slowdown, and likely to contain short-term measures to boost firms.

    However, few are anticipating generous cash handouts or a blockbuster package for the business community.

    Mr Heng himself has indicated that this will be a relatively prudent Budget: "Because it's the first term of the new Government, it means that we have to be particularly prudent so that we have resources when we need to act later."

    The minister said the Budget will address small and medium-sized enterprises' immediate challenges, while also supporting them in longer-term goals like restructuring through innovation, internationalisation and transforming or upgrading their business models.

    Meanwhile, slowing growth has hit the labour market. Layoffs climbed 20 per cent to 15,580 last year while job vacancies fell.

    A poll by government feedback unit Reach found that Singaporeans were worried about the slowdown in the economy and whether this would mean poorer job prospects for them.

    Nine Nominated MPs will take their oaths of allegiance before the Budget statement.

    Ministers will also answer questions MPs have tabled on recent developments, including the shortage of local IT workers and the punishments given to the two officers in charge of a training exercise in which a national serviceman died.

    The Budget will be broadcast live on television and radio. Those planning to watch it online can do so on the official Singapore Budget website or through the mobile application.

    The Straits Times will provide in-depth coverage on its website as well as updates on social media.

    The paper is also convening a roundtable on Saturday to discuss the measures announced in Mr Heng's Budget speech.

    The roundtable will feature four panellists: Jimmy Koh, head of global economics and markets research at UOB; Walter Theseira, senior lecturer at UniSIM; Kurt Wee, president of the Association of Small and Medium Enterprises; and Desmond Choo, a unionist and MP for Tampines GRC.

    It will be moderated by The Straits Times deputy business editor Aaron Low.

    The roundtable will be covered extensively on The Straits Times website and in the paper's Sunday edition.