How can such a pro-business budget benefit the suffering sandwiched middle-class?


Did you watch Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat (HSK) deliver the Budget? If you didn’t, you’re probably like most people with a full-time job, a family to support and oh, maybe, a life. So that’s ok, we’ll summarise the important parts for you. IF you’re one of the rare specimens who DID happen to watch Singapore’s Budget 2016, you’ll notice 3 things:

  • A lot of money is going into helping businesses
  • If you have the cash, it’s time to invest in property in Jurong
  • HSK’s phone went off halfway through the budget

The government is spending $4.5BN out of the $5BN budget this year is on helping businesses and developing industries. How the heck do we, the non-towkays, suffering sandwiched middle-class citizens, benefit from this arrangement? At first glance it does seem like the Government is a parent throwing money at their petulant teenage child (aka the businesses), hoping that their teenager will like them better, respect them more and see them as cool parents. But unlike that analogy, there are actually benefits to pumping in money to grow companies, businesses and industries.

1. If businesses improve productivity, Singaporean professionals will be paid more

Image from MOF Facebook Page

Image from MOF Facebook Page

Like what HSK said, companies with higher productivity tend to pay their workers more across the board. So with slowing productivity growth, our wages might soon grow at a much slower rate because how can you justify high wages and salaries but declining output? I can only assume that the government is trying to help businesses survive and help them make more money so workers have jobs to go to and eventually, earn more money.

This point is so important that even our unions have requested that businesses are helped so that workers get to keep their jobs. Granted, the Labour Movement in Singapore has always been a tad unusual, unlike your cookie-cutter trade unions of the west. They have implemented a wage floor or progressive wage model pegged to productivity and also their own productivity schemes for businesses.

But they’re right, no point bankrupting businesses for worker benefits when there are no jobs to return to after that. If you are in a position to do anything at your workplace, please, go and apply for those grants when they’re out.

2. Innovation and new industries, can increase Singaporeans’ incomes

The government is also going big on innovation and creating new industries. Industries like FinTech, MedTech etc., these are all potential sunrise industries where jobs will be at. By innovating and creating new industries, the government is trying to create more jobs for Singaporeans to move into in the future.

Image from MOF Facebook Page

Image from MOF Facebook Page

Which comes to the point about buying property at Jurong/Chua Choa Kang now if you have the cash, because there will be this huge development there in the near future.

Jurong Innovation District

#SGBudget2016 sees the launch of an exciting new development: the Jurong Innovation District. It will represent the future of innovation for enterprise, learning, and living.Over the years, Jurong has been transformed from swampland into a thriving hub for the manufacturing industry that powered Singapore’s economic growth. Now, we will make another leap to create the industrial park of the future. The Jurong Innovation District will create an environment to house research, innovation, and production activities within a single, next-generation industrial district. This has the potential to transform how we live, work, play, learn, and create. Watch this video to see how the Jurong Innovation District could look like when it is completed!

Posted by Ministry of Finance (Singapore) on Thursday, 24 March 2016


3. SkillsFuture can help you work longer if you want to, earn more

But restructuring and creating new industries and jobs is not enough. Our people MUST have the skills to be matched to these jobs. And that’s why ladies and gentlemen, SkillsFuture is so important. The government is pushing for Singaporeans to embrace lifelong learning because they see that you can’t have all these fancy new-age jobs when your people are not equipped to work in these industries. So while SkillsFuture is not new, it is integral to our economic restructuring.

4. Special Employment Credits (SEC) help older, middle-aged Singaporean workers keep their jobs
They say Tharman is a closet socialist. When he delivered his Budget speeches, he tried to drop hints on how they can benefit the ordinary worker. If that is true than HSK is his polar opposite. The man is a pragmatic economist who is about as fluffy as a rock.
These grants and credits (like the SEC), help businesses maintain the costs of keeping older workers so that they can continue working should they choose to. The employer gets to benefit from the experience of the seasoned worker, and it helps the older worker build up his retirement fund. Although there are probably employers who flout the rules, there will always be some bad eggs.

Image from MOF Facebook Page

Image from MOF Facebook Page

Schemes like the Wage Credit Scheme also go to help employers pay local low wage workers more. The government is giving them money, but through their employers. However good these schemes are, the ultimate aim is for the government to develop our workers so they can do without these schemes in future.
So there you have it, these are some Easter Eggs in this incredibly pro towkay budget that will help workers in the long-run. Hopefully these towkays will do the right thing and share their gains when the time calls for it. It they do not, then the government must take measures to enforce gain-sharing to ensure Singaporeans get to enjoy the fruit of their labour.

Article contributed by reader Jai Ho


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