SINGAPORE — Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat on 16 February presented the "Emerging Stronger Together" Budget for financial year 2021 aimed at helping the nation to tackle the immediate challenges, and businesses and workers innovate and grow in a post-COVID-19 environment.
The measures include an $11 billion COVID-19 Resilience Package to re-open safely and sustain the momentum of recovery; $870 million of support and extended cost relief targeted at the aviation sector; and $24 billion over the next three years to help firms and workers to emerge stronger from the pandemic.
Here are what some business executives think about Singapore Budget 2021.
Goh Choon Phong, chief executive officer, Singapore Airlines
"We would like to thank the Singapore government for its continued support for the aviation industry, ranging from the measures that have been announced during the budget to prioritising the sector in the country’s vaccination exercise.
The measures will help to bolster the SIA Group’s plans to navigate the disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, while remaining nimble and flexible to seize all opportunities as international routes re-open and travel sentiments improve. The initiatives will also help our employees to retain their knowledge and competencies, and acquire new skills if necessary, ensuring that they are future-ready during this critical period.
Since the start of COVID-19, the SIA Group has worked with our partners to continue providing essential passenger and cargo connectivity between Singapore and major economies around the world. We are grateful for the support of all customers, stakeholders and staff members. The foundations that we build during this crisis will put us in a strong position to overcome the current challenges and cement our leading position in a fast-changing aviation environment.”
Benjamin Choy, group chief operating officer, Natural Cool Holdings Limited
"I am heartened to see that the government continues an expansionary budget to mitigate the effects of COVID-19, and to help businesses transform.
In particular, I feel that the government recognises the importance the role of SMEs in the economy in terms of job creation for Singaporeans and Singaporean PRs. More has to be done to attract Singaporeans and SPRs to enter the Built Environment Sector as this has traditionally been staffed by foreign workforce, even at the PMET level. One way to do this is to accelerate the development of work site automation tools. Hopefully, this will raise the acceptance of blue collar work amongst Singaporeans and SPRs but this will require SMEs to collaborate with one another closely, something that not all SME bosses have the time and resources to do.
The plans announced to support transformation (Venture Debt for High Growth Enterprises, Co-Funding Transformation of Mature Enterprises, and especially the Growth and Transformation Scheme for the Build Environment Sector) is an exciting development and dovetails well with our own internal plans. I look forward to hearing more details about how this will be implemented.
One pet peeve I have is the definition of what constitutes a SME. The current definition, set in 2011, sets a group revenue benchmark of not more than S$100m and group employees of not more than 200. Times have changed, and many companies who have exceeded these benchmarks still require help to grow, especially in the current pandemic environment.
Overall, I feel this is a good budget, and it is now incumbent on all of us to proactively take advantage of these initiatives to transform our businesses."
Lim Fang How, regional director for Southeast Asia, Zebra Technologies
"In a bid to build a more resilient and sustainable Singapore, the government has launched several initiatives and is investing billions into its next five-year plan for research, innovation and enterprise. The measures announced at Budget, such as the $24 billion which will be allocated to enable firms and workers to start on the next phase of transformation, will further encourage local businesses to invest in their capabilities and gain a competitive edge.
The manufacturing industry is a key industry in Singapore, with the government also rolling out the Manufacturing 2030 Vision, a 10-year plan to growth the sector by 50%. To transform its manufacturing industry, Singapore must develop and empower the front line of enterprises with the latest, cutting-edge technology such as automation, worker augmentation solutions and real-time visibility solutions.
It is also critical for the Singapore government to work with industry experts and stay competitive. These partnerships will play a key role in developing innovative manufacturing capabilities and solutions, ultimately contributing to Singapore’s economic growth."
Nilesh Jain, vice-president, Southeast Asia and India, Trend Micro
“The challenges for Singapore outlined at the 2021 Budget come as no surprise – keeping pace with technological change and the sustained need for advanced analytics will remain the linchpins of a modern economy. With the government digging deep into our reserves by pledging S$24 billion to transform businesses and help workers over the next three years, the message rings clear – we must continue to harness knowledge and break new ground on the technology front.
The onus is on Singaporeans to be nimble, re-skill, and upskill to remain employable in an evolving labor market. The new chief technology officer or CTO-as-a-Service initiative and the Digital Leaders Program for instance, will raise the digital-readiness bar for Singapore citizens. In a world facing global supply chain shocks and resurgent virus outbreaks, I believe that these initiatives will catalyse the adoption of leading technologies to strengthen our resolve as a collective.”