Minister for Finance Heng Swee Keat delivered the Singapore Government’s budget statement for financial year 2019 in Parliament on 18 February 2019.
Presented in the island-state’s bicentennial year since its founding by Sir Stamford Raffles in 1819, Budget 2019 comes amid four major shifts: the shift in global economic weight towards Asia, rapid technological advancements, changing demographic patterns, and increasingly, the decline in support for globalization.
Domestically, there are long-term challenges that must be address as a society, said Minister Heng.
Budget 2019 outlines a strategic plan to build a strong, united Singapore by:
- Keeping it safe and secure
- Continuing to transform and build a vibrant and innovative economy
- Continuing to build a caring and inclusive society
- Continuing to build Singapore as a global city and home for all
- Achieving these goals in a responsible and fiscally sustainable way
As a global professional accounting body that follows government budgets in many markets, and with a membership of more than 8,000 in Singapore, CPA Australia has given its backing to the Singapore Budget 2019.
CPA Australia believes the focus on skills and technology in this Budget adds to a range of successful policies that has made Singapore a leading place to live, work and do business.
“It’s both pleasing and appropriate in this time of significant global economic headwinds for the Government to deliver an expansionary budget,” said Paul Drum, Head of External Affairs of CPA Australia.
“The Government has used the Budget to announce ground-breaking measures to further support businesses and enable workers to deepen their capabilities. These measures include the $19 billion announced to improve R&D capabilities, and also the $4.6 billion to enhance economic capability-building for business and also to support Singaporean workers to help them thrive amid industry and technological disruptions.”
These measures, Drum believes, will help ensure that Singapore is better placed to take advantage of opportunities emerging from technological advances and the re-emergence of Asia as the global center of economic activity.
Digital transformation of Singapore businesses
Lim Fang How, Regional Director for South-east Asia, Zebra Technologies, concurred: “We laud the Singapore Government’s efforts to help local businesses gain competitive edge to contest abroad.”
“The next critical step will be in ensuring that local businesses have the confidence and knowledge needed to execute their digital transformation, and to know what the right technological solutions are to adopt,” he said.
With advanced technology coming in various forms today, including connected sensors, digital twins, 5G and blockchain, which Lim believes can help businesses collect and visualize the relevant and right data from endpoints, such technology can add intelligent value for businesses to respond effectively to business needs.
“Naturally, the most relevant solutions to adopt will vary across industries,” he added. For instance, in the retail and logistics sectors, both integral to Singapore’s economy, the shift to omnichannel retail and last-mile delivery capabilities has resulted in the rising importance of mobile solutions.
“We are excited to see how the Singapore Government will be working with various technology leaders and industry associations to equip local businesses with the knowledge and confidence in choosing the right technological solutions to propel them to the next level,” said Lim.
“The cybersecurity jobs market has been a bright spot in recent years. A field that was once limited to defense contractors, government agencies and other highly technical niches has transformed into one that is now front and center of every industry in Singapore. This has contributed to a fast-growing demand for cybersecurity talents across the world, leading to a shortage,” said Nilesh Jain, Vice President, Southeast Asia and India, Trend Micro.
As a result, many have turned to automation as a solution. Jain said: “In an age when the volume of cyber-threats is becoming overwhelming for any IT team, automation can help relieve some pressure, such as dealing with problems at a greater scale and with superior accuracy. However, automation cannot replace cybersecurity professionals still.”
Another challenge companies are facing is the increasing complexity of cyber-threats, which are becoming stealthier and more evasive than before. Spotting them requires deep human analysis.
“Therefore, developing threat-hunting and investigation capabilities, and training talents who can perform these tasks would be the top priority. The Singapore government’s role should be to help companies develop such skills, either in-house or via an external service provider who offers managed detection and response (MDR) services.”
CPA Australia’s Drum said: “2019 is a year of uncertainty. With global trade tensions, Brexit and rising US interest rates, amongst other challenges, the measures announced today plus existing programmes will help many Singaporean businesses manage through this uncertainty and be well placed for long-term robust growth.”
He concluded: “Singapore remains one of the best places to do business in the world. It is in a very strong position to implement the measures announced today to increase the competitiveness and productivity of local businesses and to upskill the workforce for a rapidly changing environment. These will provide a useful buttress against what looks likely to be a challenging year.”
Details of the Singapore 2019 Budget can be found here.