Post-Budget 2023 Youth Dialogue
Budget 2023 aims to help Singaporeans address immediate concerns while also positioning Singapore for long-term growth, stability and security amidst a challenging internal and global environment. Given limited resources, how can the Government balance competing needs with its Budget 2023 policies and initiatives?
Youths have a strong stake in Singapore. What are the areas they are most concerned about, and how can they partner their peers, the community, and the Government to create the future they want to see?
The National Youth Council (NYC) engaged youths from diverse backgrounds to better understand youth sentiments on the Budget 2023.
Beyond these conversations, NYC will provide opportunities for youths to take ground-up action to champion and make a difference in the community.
What We Heard
The National Youth Council (NYC), Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY) and Ministry of Finance (MOF) co-organised a hybrid engagement on Post-Budget 2023 on 28 March 2023 with venue partner Singapore Management University (SMU). The engagement involved 121 physical and 60 virtual participants and the following Political Office Holders and invited speakers.
● Minister Indranee Rajah – Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office, Second Minister for Finance and National Development
● Mr Alvin Tan – Minister of State for Culture, Community and Youth & Trade and Industry
● Ms Sabrina Soh – National Youth Council INSPIRIT Youth Leader
During the session, participants and panellists delved into the three Budget 2023 themes: (i) Strengthening our Social Compact; (ii) Navigating a Volatile and Complex world; and (iii) Building a Resilient Nation, and discussed what were the trade-offs that emerged:
Here are the key points of the dialogue:
Importance and relevance of Budget 2023 to youths
- Min Indranee said that the overarching priority of Budget 2023 was to position Singapore for the future as this was the first Budget since Singapore emerged from the global pandemic. She said that the Budget announcements focused on strengthening Singapore’s economic growth and social compact.
- MOS Tan said that the Budget 2023 was important to youths as they played an integral role in driving Singapore forward. He said that the topics of education, employment opportunities, cost of living, sustainability, mental well-being, and support for vulnerable groups were key aspects of the Budget 2023 that were relevant to youths.
- Ms Sabrina Soh said that the Budget 2023 contained many initiatives that were relevant to youths who were new parents, such as the Baby Support Grant, extended paternity leave, and Working Mother’s Child Relief.
Theme: Strengthening our social compact
Participants asked (via PigeonHole) whether the Budget 2023 would help to increase access to mental health resources given the rising emphasis on mental health literacy and care.
- MOS Tan said that the Inter-agency Taskforce on Mental Health and Well-being was a good example of citizens working with the Government to raise awareness of and reduce stigma towards mental health issues, and to train and equip citizens with the skills to better support themselves and others. He encouraged youths to build mental well-being circles amongst their communities in schools and workplaces.
- MOS Tan said that the National Council of Social Service (NCSS) and Health Promotion Board (HPB) worked together to help those with mental health conditions find employment and provide peer support to themselves and others.
Participants asked (via PigeonHole) if there were sufficient initiatives and policies to move Singapore towards a more inclusive society.
- Min Indranee said that some Budget 2023 announcements were measures that support marriage and parenthood as the Government aimed to provide more assistance for families across all segments of Singapore. She said that single mothers were also eligible for the Child Development Account First Step Grant, and the Ministry of National Development worked with families of children born out of wedlock on a case-by-case basis to help them secure housing.
- Ms Sabrina Soh acknowledged that the Government had put in place payouts to help Singaporeans cushion the effects of the GST hike and rising inflation. She said that, however, more could be done to support low to middle-income families.
Participants asked (via PigeonHole) how effective cash incentives were in encouraging couples to have children.
- Min Indranee said that the Government recognised that cash incentives alone were insufficient to encourage and support young Singaporeans to get married and start a family. She said that besides financial support, the Government also considered factors like stress and work-life balance.
- Min Indranee said that aside from increasing grants, the Government had also doubled unpaid infant care leave and paid paternity leave, encouraged flexible work arrangements and announced that families would receive an additional ballot for Build to Order housing.
Theme: Navigating a volatile and complex world
Issue: Rising Cost of Living, Job Opportunities and Housing Concerns
An on-site participant asked how the Government balanced fiscal prudence amidst the rising cost of living.
- Min Indranee said that it was essential to understand the reasons behind the rising cost of living, which included the global pandemic and the Russian-Ukraine conflict, both of which led to disrupted supply chains, increased energy prices and higher inflation.
- Min Indranee said that the Government demonstrated fiscal prudence by increasing GST to support Singapore’s ageing population and rising healthcare costs. She said that fiscal surpluses were set aside in the Assurance Package to help buffer Singaporeans against the rising cost of living. She said that the Government also focused on helping Singaporeans get good jobs with a better income, which would help cushion against rising costs.
Participants asked (via PigeonHole) the Government how Singaporeans could ensure their employability amidst economic uncertainty.
- MOS Tan said that Singapore’s positive image – as a country that was open to talent and investments – encouraged trading with other countries and attracted businesses looking for safe places to invest and create new jobs. He said that this was important, particularly in this present era of geopolitical crisis, and it showed that other countries had confidence in Singapore and could create opportunities for exciting jobs for Singaporeans.
- MOS Tan encouraged youths to explore NYC’s Asia-Ready Exposure Programme, a platform that exposed youths to the immediate region and related job opportunities.
An on-site participant asked how Singapore could “grow its pie” to ensure that everyone benefits.
- Min Indranee encouraged Singaporeans to pursue opportunities in growth sectors such as sustainability. She said that the Singapore Green Plan aimed to help Singaporeans obtain the necessary skills to pursue jobs in this emerging sector.
- Min Indranee said that nurturing innovation was a means of “doing the same thing in a new way”. She said that Budget 2023 included a $1 billion top-up to the Singapore Global Enterprises initiative, which helps promising companies with customised assistance in areas such as innovation, internationalisation and fostering of partnerships with other companies.
Participants asked (via PigeonHole) how the Ministry of National Development (MND) balanced meeting the demand for Build-To-Order (BTO) flats and catering to the populace’s concerns about renting and the mass-building solutions provided.
- Min Indranee said that the principle behind BTO flats was to ensure that the demand for housing was met by building only when a quota has been reached. She said that COVID-related delays had disrupted BTO building schedules, which resulted in more people moving into the resale market. She said that a small group of buyers had driven up housing prices, which created the wrong impression that housing had become unaffordable.
- Min Indranee said that with supply chains returning to normal, the supply of BTO flats and the housing market would soon stabilise in the next one to two years.
Theme: Building a Resilient Nation
Issue: Tax Resilience and Military Defence
An on-site participant asked if the Government would consider a tax system similar to Nordic countries.
- Min Indranee said that while Nordic countries provided generous state support, their tax rates were also very high. She said that raising the GST by 2% had already been met with resistance, and Singapore’s fiscal policy approach was to ensure that tax was low to ensure that Singapore remained affordable for citizens.
An on-site participant asked whether the Government would be digitalising the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF), given a 6% increase in defence expenditure.
- MOS Tan said that the Ministry of Defence was investing in cyber security as the defence intelligence service was the fourth arm of the SAF, and was necessary to respond to new threats in the digital space.
- Min Indranee said that aside from expanding defences to the digital sector, technology could only take Singapore so far, and Singaporeans had to be prepared on all fronts in case of a war.
Call to action
- Ms Sabrina Soh said that youths could tap on the resources and support in their schools. She also encouraged participants to join NYC engagements and programmes to gain more perspectives on national issues.
- MOS Tan encouraged youths to find out more about Mentoring SG – an initiative to help and guide youths through their personal, education and career journey. He said that Singapore should develop a mentoring culture to support and grow the capabilities of our youths.
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