This Year’s Pre-Budget Q&A Was Held On Facebook. Here’s What Happened.

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Don’t miss these important things you can expect to see in this year’s budget.

In this digital age, even our governmental policy discussions are online. This year, our pre-budget 2017 question-and-answer session was conducted on REACH Singapore’s Facebook with the main points published on their comments’ thread.

The Pre-Budget 2017 Q&A was held so that the government could take into consideration the feedback of Singaporeans and formulate the plans for Budget 2017. The Q&A was conducted with Government Parliamentary Committee for Finance, Trade and Industry (GPCFTI), Mr Liang Eng Hwa, and Ms Foo Mee Har.

Here, we cover some of the issues raised by Singaporeans and the responses from the committee.

Family

In Singapore, many complain about the poor work-life balance and the clashing lives of family members. Finding time for a family of 4 to eat dinner together would actually require some planning.

Under the first section of the Q&A session, the main concerns were how to make Singapore a better place for families and encourage young couples to start their own family.

General issues from the public: High costs of starting a family for young couples and the long BTO waiting time, work-life balance for existing families and maternity leaves.

Problem raised: Lack of incentives for parents to work productively and continue providing quality care for their family and children.
Suggestion: Direct cash subsidy for caring for children and childcare leave scheme

Ms Foo Mee Har: “Agree that parents can always do with more support. Working parents with at least 1 child who is a Singapore Citizen under the age of 7 years are eligible for 6 days of paid childcare leave every year. The first 3 days are employer-paid, and the last 3 days are Government-paid (capped at $500 per day, inclusive of CPF contributions).”

Workers’ skills

As the world becomes increasingly globalised, the skill set needed to tackle this ever-changing and unpredictable world has shifted dramatically. As such, no matter how entrenched and mature companies are, there is a need to acknowledge new changes and find ways to efficiently resolve them.

Singapore (and any country really) needs to see the benefits of investing in the people to ensure the sustainability of our labour force. We are no strangers to Skillsfuture and Work upgrade credits, but what Singaporeans had issues with were the quality and quantity of these courses.

General issues: Credits are simply insufficient, no time to go for course/work-life balance, limited choices and access to general courses.

1. Problem raised: Increasing competition from technology and innovation (ie. Uber) that has caused the lack of demand for the “traditional” workers (ie. Taxi drivers)
Suggestion: Governments to force workers to take up courses to upgrade.

Mr Liang Eng Hwa: “SkillsFuture Credit is meant to encourage individuals to take ownership of skills upgrade and embrace the life long learning culture.”

2. Problem raised: Symbolic stature of Skillsfuture courses; participation from older citizens are basically unaccounted for as they are not acknowledged for their “upgraded skills”

Ms Foo Mee Har: “I understand your frustrations. We need to make schemes e.g. Place and Train and Earn and Learn more widespread, so people who are looking to upgrade with the hope of gaining employment can be focused in their efforts.”

3. Problem raised: Lack of specificity with respect to scope of their jobs; inefficient and untargeted way of seeking to upgrade one’s ability in their job.

Ms Foo Mee Har: “SkillsFuture is meant to encourage lifelong learning for ALL Singaporeans 25 years and above – so understandably it covers a wide range of programmes. However, there are other more targeted programmes designed to help people gain specific skills e.g. Professional Conversion Programme, TechSkills Accelerator etc Clearly laid out learning pathways to guide Singaporeans develop mastery of skills in their respective profession should be a priority.”

Digital world

No one can escape the internet today. Like it or not, the digital revolution has only started and more advanced technology will dominate and overhaul the existing perceivably comfortable life we have. (For more comfort, of course)

The concerns of the government were for firms to accept the need to transcend traditional methods and adapt accordingly, as well as potential governmental assistance to drive innovation and venture abroad.

General issues: How to keep up with the continuous surge of technological expertise; increasing structural unemployment as a result of the irrelevance of skills by traditional workers

1. Problem raised: Need to develop a community for local entrepreneurs, be it young, mid-career switch and silver entrepreneurs, to thrive, engage and grow as a whole

Ms Foo Mee Har: Ongoing policies are in place such as Committee for Future Economy; Start-up support initiatives such as JTC Launch Pad, Blk 71, Innovation Hub have been gaining popularity as well.

2. Problem raised: Unnecessary dependence on governmental grants to expand overseas as founder should take charge of their business; instead, mentorship and access to market should be prioritised; the need to open demand up to the international world– be it, companies or freelancers.

Ms Foo Mee Har: “Agree. Mentors can be very helpful. Take a look at this site by IE http://www.iesingapore.gov.sg/…/Non-Financial-Assistance

3. Problem raised: Lack of unawareness and accessibility to the grants they are entitled to; need for SPRING and IE to improve

Mr Liang Eng Hwa: “The Industry Transformation Map for each identified sectors should be able to further help SMEs and businesses with more targeted attention”

Building an inclusive society

The Government has introduced various schemes to encourage philanthropy and volunteerism amongst businesses and individuals (ie. ComChest enhancements, Giving.sg and Giving week).

However, there is still more that can be done to extend employability for Persons with Disabilities and build communal assistance.

General issues: Lack of significance of flag days and charity shows–resulting in the skewed association between actual help and pure philanthropy

Problem raised: Lack of trainings for the Persons with Disabilities (PwDs) with appropriate skills and jobs

Ms Foo Mee Har: “Enabling Village does helps to train PWDs and caregivers”