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    Feb 23, 2015

    'Sandwiched' class to get more help?

    THE long-awaited Jubilee Budget will be delivered in Parliament today at 3.30pm, with high expectations that there will be something for all Singaporeans in line with the nation's 50th birthday and a possible early election.

    Analysts have suggested a range of possibilities - from tax reliefs to a one-off cash payout - for the "sandwiched" class that has been squeezed by rising costs.

    Senior Minister of State for Finance and Transport Josephine Teo hinted on Saturday that support for families will be an important theme in this year's Budget. This ranges from help for children's education to caring for elders, Mrs Teo said. The Budget will also continue to strike a balance between looking after the immediate needs of citizens and planning for future generations, she had added.

    Another key focus will be on preparing the country for the future.

    While previous Budgets contained a slew of incentives aimed at helping businesses raise productivity and pass on gains to their employees, the focus this year is expected to be on long-term measures on training and development as part of ongoing efforts to cultivate deep skills in the workforce.

    Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam, who will present the Budget statement, chairs the SkillsFuture Council. It was formed in September to spearhead a national push towards an integrated system of education, training and career progression.

    Barclays economist Leong Wai Ho said the Budget may outline a new approach to the Government's drive for higher labour productivity.

    "At the same time, the broader rhetoric is likely to be more tolerant of a slower pace of growth," he added.

    The Budget is also expected to further strengthen social safety nets for the vulnerable, including plans to help the elderly poor.

    Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong had referred in his National Day Rally speech last year to a new scheme called Silver Support. Elements of it are likely to include a payout in the form of an annual bonus to low-income Singaporeans aged 65 and above, to help them cope with daily living expenses.

    The Government is also expected to endorse key recommendations made by the Central Provident Fund (CPF) advisory panel to revamp the retirement system.

    These proposals focus on providing CPF members with more choices and flexibility.

    The Budget will also lay the foundations for higher health-care spending, said Mr Leong, who expects it to contain more details about the MediShield Life scheme.

    A "live" webcast of the speech will be available on the website and on the Singapore Budget mobile app, available for download on both the iOS and Android platforms.

    The Singapore Association for the Deaf will provide simultaneous sign language interpretation of the speech. This can be accessed on the Budget website and mobile app.

    There will be real-time updates of key announcements on the Ministry of Finance Facebook page and Twitter account.

    Members of the public can submit their views on the Budget's initiatives via the Budget website or to government feedback unit Reach.