Many of the assumptions that would have gone into planning for the future have been disrupted this past year. As noted by the Finance Minister Mr Heng Swee Keat in his Budget speech, we are in a time of change.
What is unprecedented, is that there was no herald to this change. It is a stark reminder of how quick and unpredictable change has become in the world today. This period of change drives the theme of the entire 2017 Budget - Moving Forward Together. It lays out in a way that best befits this time of change - a strategy, rather than a plan.
Not prescribing, it instead enacts policies to help Singapore stay agile and adaptive, especially as our external environment changes rapidly.
As technology brings forth the convergence of industries and new business models disrupt traditional businesses, leveraging the benefits brought on by digitalisation and increased connectivity can promote innovation.
Beyond measures promoting innovation capability building to ensure our people have the right skills, there are also proposals to encourage our local enterprises to digitalise so as to improve their operations.
Besides business related measures, building an inclusive and caring society by introducing more household support measures have also been announced.
Totalling an expected $850 million, it will include GST vouchers, education bursaries and more service and conservancy charge rebates, and also provides more support to the disadvantaged.
The Budget is far-sighted. It encourages greater innovation through initiatives such as the Global Innovation Alliance, Innovators Academy and Innovation Launchpad. It also pushes local enterprises to change their mind-set and embrace the need to digitalise, as evident in the new SMEs Go Digital programme.
Overall, Budget 2017 strikes a balance between the need to be responsive in a rapidly changing world while remaining fiscally prudent.
Besides developing future-ready skills and infrastructure, it also fosters a caring, inclusive society and a quality living environment, while managing a fiscally sustainable system.
Ong Pang Thye
Managing Partner, KPMG in Singapore