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How not to draft a cliche-laden speech

I do this almost every year in the hope that MPs will get the hint and not bore those who want to follow parliamentary proceedings. We’ll be listening to two days worth of speeches (or reading them)  in response to Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat’s Budget statement from tomorrow. I am hoping NOT to hear something like this one below: 

I thank the Finance Minister for a prudent and far-sighted Budget. It is a Budget for the future. It addresses our recurrent spending needs and also helps us deal with the challenges of an ageing population (insert relevant statistics here).

We must invest in our young (add Edusave point?), but also take care of the old. After all, we all have to grow old some day (Must say this for empathy!) But we must be careful about making too many inter-generational transfers which will burden our children and our children’s children because of our imprudent policies. We must make hard choices and do the right thing for Singapore.

Sir, I thank the Minister for the Sg bonus. It is an unexpected hongbao. This is reflective of the way Singapore shares the fruits of its economy. Some people will say that this shows that we can afford not to raise the GST. They fail to realize that this is a “one-off’’ bonus because of (cite reasons here). We may not always be in such a favorable situation next year or the year after. (Insert something about winds of change, technological disruption, globalization etc)

But we must still find some way to fund our future spending. The NIRC is already at its maximum of 50 per cent, overtaking all other revenue streams. Someone has to pay for the critical infrastructure and increased social spending that will come (Insert here some statistics on increased healthcare spending).

We are all glad that we still have enough to spend till 2020 and that the GST is only going up  between 2021 and 2025. Nobody likes to pay more taxes (Empathy point!) but the Minister has given us some room to prepare for the 2 percentage point increase. He has also promised that this will be accompanied by a GST offset package and rebates. I hope he will be generous because the rise in GST will have an impact on households, especially the lower income (Empathy point!)

It is natural (?) for people to think we should dip more into the reserves and not raise the GST.  But this will be the start of a slippery slope. We risk killing the goose that lays the golden egg. Our reserves are meant to be used only in desperate situations (Rainy days?Insert past examples here). The same principle applies to those who think we should raise the NIRC beyond 50 per cent. As the Minister has pointed out, it will risk depleting our reserves. We should not take the easy way out. We must bite the bullet. We should not kick the can down the road for our future generations to pick up.

Sir, Singapore is admired around the world for her fiscal prudence (Cite some indices here). This is why we have a strong credit rating and a strong Singapore dollar. We must maintain this position. In fact, this is why the minister is able to shift the funding  principles when it comes to big critical infrastructure projects that take a long time to complete. By leveraging on our strong credit position and using our reserves to guarantee more borrowing in the bond market, we are spreading out the cost over several years instead of depending on the current generation to pay for everything. (Must say this slowly. Good point)

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It has been reported that banks and insurance companies are excited at the prospect of a more active bond market.  I hope am sure that the critical infrastructure (cite the projects) will bring in the revenues that can re-pay the loans, so that the future generations will not be burdened with higher increases . It is right that we find more ways to fund our needs. This is a more equitable way of sharing costs across the generations.

To be able to meet our needs and aspirations, we must train and re-train and inculcate a culture of continuous learning. I am glad that our productivity figures are looking better if only because there are fewer foreigners working. We must remember that there is no such thing as a free lunch and that others are looking to take away our lunch. In this regard, I welcome the introduction of the Industry Transformation Maps for our companies to work together and create higher-value jobs. (Need example?) I also applaud the move to integrate Spring Singapore and other agencies into one body. It is a step in the right direction and is reflective of the whole-of-government approach.

Mr Speaker, Sir, our objective must be to build a prosperous and inclusive society. We must make sure no one is left behind. The extension of the Wage Credit Scheme will help those lower down the ladder while the rise in Basic Stamp Duty will further level the playing field between the haves and the have-nots. We must monitor closely the Gini co-efficient and take steps to prevent the development of an underclass. Society must not be allowed to fracture along class lines.

I am also pleased  that steps are being taken to implement a carbon tax. Sir, Singapore may be a small country but we must do our part to combat climate change. The minister’s proposal is timely since  this year is designated as Singapore’s Year for Climate Action. We must, however, learn from the experience of other countries which have implemented the tax. The devil, as they say, is in the details.

In conclusion, I thank the Minister for his comprehensive overview of Singapore’s economy and his roadmap (framework?) to lead Singapore forward.

I support the Budget Statement.




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An ex-journalist who can't get enough of the news after being in the business for 26 years

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