The minister for finance has unveiled the budget for 2017 in Parliament. The Straits Times called it "A Budget For Today and Tomorrow". Is it?
I find the budget to be uninspiring. I find it to be disappointing.
The primary role of a government is the welfare of the people. In a democratic country, the government is elected by the people to deal with the problems that the people are not able to do on their own.
The annual budget of the government is an opportunity for the government to identify the key challenges facing the country and the people, and to take appropriate measures to address these issues.
What are the problems facing the people? They are:
a) Availability and security of jobs
b) Cost of living
c) Cost of doing business
d) Low birth rate
I look at the budget to see how these issues were addressed. The budget does have a few measures to address the challenges faced by the economy in creating jobs. There is hardly any mention of the other three challenges.
Instead, there is a move to impose a carbon tax and to increase the cost of water. This must add to the cost of living and to the cost of doing business.
Even the business commuity has expressed disappointment at the budget. Link. There is an urgent need to address the cost of doing business and uncompetitiveness. The finance minister did not seem to think that we have this problem.
The finance minister has probably given up trying to get people to have more babies. The past baby bonus packages must have failed miserably.
In the area of job creation, the finance minister has missed the point. During the challenging times last year, the economy was able to create jobs, but the jobs seemed to be going to foreigners. This is pointed out in the article by Leong Szehian.
In the meantime, many people are being retrenched and have to work as taxi drivers. Even this line is tough, as there are too much competition for a smaller pool of customers.
Before any problem can be solved, we must understand the problem and especially the root causes of the problem.
Jobs are being created but they are going to foreigners. Why? Foreigners are cheaper and are not called up regularly for NS reservist duty. Employers prefer foreigners. Even the public sector create jobs for foreigners through outsourcing of many of the services that were previously done by locals, e.g. security, cleaning and administration.
As there is no minimum wage and foreigners can survive on lower salaries, many jobs will continue to go to foreigners.
With high cost of living and insecurity of jobs, the birth rate will remain low. This will be harmful for Singapore over the long term. We can survive as a country for foreigners, but the local population will continue to dwindle.
Local businesses and workers are now being encouraged to go abroad. It is an irony. When Singapore has to depend on foreigners to work here!
Singapore is clearly in a mess! The finance minister has not understood the key problems and challenges. This is reflected in his budget.
Tan Kin Lian