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Singapore BUDGET Brief 2021


I have covered the COVID-19 Resilience Package, which addresses our immediate needs – to safeguard public health, provide support for workers and businesses, and give more help to worst-hit sectors.

The past year’s Budgets and the COVID-19 Resilience Package are about preservation and adaptation – to safeguard lives, jobs, supply chains, and core economic capabilities.

From 2021, our focus will be on Emerging Stronger, Together.

Why is this important? The COVID-19 pandemic has triggered global shifts on the economic, social and political fronts, on a scale arguably greater than the 1929 Great Depression. It has set off new domains for competition and cooperation. It has also accelerated technological advances. To secure our future, we must build new capabilities in our people and businesses, and find new ways to work together effectively. Within and across industries, and beyond our shores.

While the post-COVID-19 global economic landscape is being reshaped and remains uncertain, we can discern the broad contours.

What are some of the key changes that can affect Singapore?

First, the speed of technological advances and re-configuration of global supply chains, will reshape competitive advantages.

During the 2003 SARS outbreak, by the time vaccines were ready for clinical trials, the virus was already largely contained through public health measures.But the COVID-19 pandemic has been different. Governments, scientists, and industry mobilised to work together at unprecedented speed. COVID-19 vaccines were developed in less than a year, and tests were implemented within weeks to months, in the US, China, Europe and Russia. This collaboration across industries and nations, has been a positive side of the pandemic.

But COVID-19 has also accentuated a US-China-centric technology race, into a global race for technological superiority, and heightened concerns over supply chain resilience. For Singapore, as global supply chains are reconfigured, we must plugourselves into critical parts of global networks. Businesses will need to transform and digitalise, to plug into the flow of goods and capital.

Second, COVID-19 has hit countries and communities unevenly and widened inequalities. The virus respects no borders. The global economy will remain stunted for as long as there are countries that have yet to suppressCOVID-19. This is why Singapore is working with like-minded countries through the COVAX facility, to promote global access to the vaccine, and help accelerate the resumption of safe travels.

Third, this tiny virus has reminded us of the intricate interdependencies of our ecosystem, and the importance ofsustainability and biodiversity. Our human activities have accelerated changes in our environment. We must work together to safeguard this fragile ecosystem for our future generations, and take climate change seriously.

In short, these three changes– the changing competitive landscape, rising inequalities, and importance of sustainability – are all mega-shifts, that will continue to reshape the world. To stay on top of these changes, we must bring all stakeholders together swiftly to respond to and seize the diverse opportunities.

So while last year’s Budgets were tilted towards emergency support in a broad-based way, this year’s Budget will focus on accelerating structural adaptations. In the face of major changes, we must move from just counter-cyclical fiscal and monetary stabilisation policies, to structural economic policies to equip our businesses and workers with deep and future-ready capabilities.

Like many countries, we have devoted significant resources to preserve lives and livelihoods in the face of this pandemic. But what will continue to distinguish Singapore are our investments for the future. We will invest in our people – so they can bounce back and be ready for opportunities that arise; and we will invest in our businesses – so they can innovate, build deep capabilities and seize growth opportunities. Singapore must never stop thinking of the future, even as we respond swiftly to meet current needs. This is how we stay exceptional, and staying exceptional is how we survive.

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