Everything youths need to know about the Committee of Supply announcements
The changes will impact students, young working adults and national servicemen.
Following the delivery of Budget 2023, Members of Parliament debated and voted on each ministry’s request for funds during the Committee of Supply (COS) debate from Feb 27 to Mar 6.
During these debates, the Government’s budget proposals and policies related to various ministries were scrutinised and questioned by other Members of Parliament. The Parliament then approved the budget proposals by passing the Supply Bill.
Throughout the eight-day sitting, a number of debates touched on ways to support youths in the field of sports, academics, career and housing.
Here are some announcements by the various ministries that youths should know:
Measures introduced to ensure first-timer families stand higher chances of getting BTO flats
In response to growing concerns over housing affordability and ownership, the Ministry of National Development (MND) has announced various measures to help first-timer applicants secure a flat.
First-timer applicants who fail to select a Housing Development Board (HDB) Build-to-Order (BTO) flat when invited will soon be considered second-timers in subsequent flat applications for a year.
The rule will kick in from the August sales exercise to reduce the number of BTO applicants who decline to book a flat despite being invited to do so, giving those genuinely seeking a flat a better chance of getting one.
Second-timers who choose not to pick a flat when invited will also not be able to apply for a flat for a year.
Currently, first-timers are only penalised if they do not select a BTO flat twice.
First-timer families who have children or are married couples aged 40 and below will enjoy three ballot chances and higher priority as First-Timer (Parents & Married Couples) applicants, or FT(PMC). They will also get an additional ballot chance for each subsequent BTO application in non-mature estates, if they have been unsuccessful two or more times.
Additionally, the current Parenthood Priority Scheme will be expanded to include the new FT(PMC) applicants and will be renamed the Family and Parenthood Priority Scheme.
READ: First-time BTO applicants must select flat when invited or lose priority status for a year
MINDEF to loosen restrictions on exit permits for NSmen
From April 2023, operationally ready national servicemen (NSmen) will only need to apply for an exit permit when they leave Singapore for 12 months or more.
This is up from the current rule of applying for a permit when an NSman leaves for six months or more.
Speaking at the Ministry of Defence’s (MINDEF) COS debate, Senior Minister of State for Defence Heng Chee How announced that the ministry has studied this change “very carefully” and that it would not affect SAF’s operational readiness.
New Changi recreation hub for NSmen
NSMen can also look forward to a new social and recreation hub in Changi.
Built by the National Service Resort and Country Club (NSRCC), the recreation hub will boast chalets, sports facilities and other family-centric amenities.
More details about the hub will be announced in due course.
Latest Work-Learn Scheme to include naval warfare system specialists
Selected full-time national servicemen (NSFs) who are naval warfare system specialists can also enrol in the latest Work-Learn Scheme (WLS), where they can earn a part-time diploma in Engineering (Mechanical Technology).
Currently, there are 450 NSFs enrolled in the five WLS, and MINDEF expects this number to increase to 500 by 2025.
New Singapore-Cambridge Secondary Education Certificate to be introduced in 2027
Starting in 2027, the Singapore-Cambridge Secondary Education Certificate (SEC) will replace the separate N- and O-Level examinations to allow a greater customisation and flexibility in learning.
Streaming will be phased out and students will be posted to Secondary 1 from next year in three Posting Groups based on the existing Express, Normal (Academic) and Normal (Technical) streams.
Students will then be in mixed form classes comprising students of different Posting Groups to grant more opportunities to interact with peers from different backgrounds, strengths and interests.
Through the Subject Based Banding (SBB), students can take subjects at a G3, G2 or G1 level, mapped from the current Express, Normal (Academic) and Normal (Technical) standards, based on their specific strengths and learning needs.
The option of spending a fifth year in secondary school will also remain available to students who wish to offer subjects at a more demanding level.
Subject-based banding was first implemented in 28 secondary schools in 2020. It will progressively be rolled out to more secondary schools each year from 2022 to 2024.
READ: O- and N-Level certificates to be replaced with Singapore-Cambridge Secondary Education Certificate from 2027
Revision to the A-Level curriculum
From 2024, students from junior colleges (JC) and Millennia Institute (MI) will no longer sit for mid-year examinations.
This follows the Ministry of Education (MOE)’s decision to remove mid-years from primary and secondary schools in a bid to shift away from an overemphasis on testing and academic results.
The assessment of the Project Work (PW) will also no longer be factored into the overall grade calculation from 2024. Instead, the subject will be graded as a Pass or a Fail.
The General Paper (GP) subject will be mandatory for all first-year students in JC and MI. Students can no longer take Knowledge and Inquiry (KI) in lieu of GP.
From 2026, only three H2 content-based subjects will count towards the University Admission Score (UAS) by default. The fourth content-based subject will only be included if it improves the score.
Currently, students usually take three H2 and one H1 subject, along with GP and PW. Additionally, they may take a Mother Tongue language.
With the new changes, the maximum university admission score will be 70 instead of the current 90.
READ: Mid-year exams in JCs and MI to be progressively scrapped from 2024
Sports Hub to host more community programmes
The Sports Hub will now be more accessible to the community, in light of Sport Singapore’s takeover.
More community programmes will be organised at the sports and recreation district under the Kallang Alive Sports Management (KASM), a subsidiary of Kallang Alive Holding Co., set up under the ambit of SportSG to oversee the entire Kallang Alive precinct.
Within the Kallang Alive precinct, two new facilities are also expected to be completed in the second half of the year. When completed, the Kallang Football Hub will boast seven pitches while the Kallang Tennis Centre will comprise 19 courts.
Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Edwin Tong said that Singaporeans can also look forward to world-renowned entertainment events to be held in the venue, such as concerts by Harry Styles and BLACKPINK, and marquee sports events like the FIBA 3×3 Asia Cup.
READ: Kallang Alive Sports Management to deliver more community programmes at Sports Hub
More emphasis on racial and religious harmony
The past couple of years have seen several incidents that threatened harmony between the different races and religions.
In the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth’s (MCCY) COS debate, it was announced that July will be dedicated as the Racial and Religious Harmony Month in Singapore. This is on top of the designation of Jul 21 as Racial Harmony Day.
Throughout the month, there will be activities organised by the Racial and Religious Harmony Circles – a community initiative by MCCY – and community partners to promote and celebrate racial harmony.
Minister of State for Culture, Community and Youth Alvin Tan also shared that more youths, females and representatives from other religious and community organisations will receive training on mediation, interfaith and digital media as part of their stint in leading the Harmony Circles.
READ: July dedicated as Racial and Religious Harmony Month in Singapore
National Arts Council launches new five-year roadmap to help arts sector grow
There will be more help rendered to reinvigorate the arts sector, which was greatly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The National Arts Council (NAC)’s new five-year roadmap will ensure greater access to quality arts learning experiences for students by embedding the arts in education, work, and leisure. It will also deepen engagements with schools.
Collaborations with Institutes of Higher Learning (IHL) and industry partners will be done to ensure that the digital training gaps are addressed within the existing workforce.
The upcoming University of the Arts, as well as existing and new programmes offered by LASALLE and NAFA, will help students to meet the needs of the creative economy.
NAC will also place emphasis on aiding local art practitioners to reach international audiences and gain recognition overseas. It will look at new focus areas such as intellectual property rights, new business models and digital adoption to help artists and arts groups achieve greater growth and success.
READ: National Arts Council to launch new five-year roadmap to help arts sector grow
Online Criminal Harms Act to be introduced to curb cyber crimes
The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) will introduce legislation later this year to better tackle crimes committed in cyberspace.
The Online Harms Act will cover all mediums of online communication. Measures will be introduced to detect and reduce sophisticated malicious cyber activities such as scams and phishing.
The proposed Act aims to close the gaps left by the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (Pofma) and the Foreign Interference (Countermeasures) Act (Fica) that were introduced in 2019 and 2021 respectively.
It will also increase the scope of entities the authorities can act against and introduce measures to deal more effectively with online criminal harms. This will include powers to stop or remove communications that facilitate crimes in the physical world, including the incitement of violence.
New staycation options at Lazarus Island
Youths who are bored of the staycation options in the city can now look forward to booking one beyond the shores of our mainland.
From April 2023, visitors to Lazarus Island can book eco-friendly short stays in “tiny houses”’ that measure between 150sqft and 170sqft. Called Tiny Away Escape @ Lazarus, the units are developed by the Sentosa Development Corporation (SDC) in partnership with eco-tourism company Big Tiny.
The five standalone units will be the first accommodation built on Lazarus island for short term stays and will be in line with sustainable practices to reduce holidaymakers’ carbon footprint.
Aside from the short-term stay in the tiny units, visitors can also find bicycle rentals and the Glasshouse, an air-conditioned multi-purpose space that boasts stunning views, on the island.
Other amenities and activities planned for Lazarus Island include a convenience store, overnight glamping experiences and non-motorised water activities. These will be launched in phases from June 2023.
READ: Sustainable ‘tiny houses’ to be built on Lazarus Island for short-term stays; available for booking from April
Youths to get more say in policy-making
Youths will soon have more opportunities to be involved in policy-making work.
Minister of Culture, Community and Youth Edwin Tong said that MCCY and the National Youth Council (NYC) are “exploring ways to institutionalise youth involvement in policy-making, and elevate their proposals for consideration on a national platform.”
Current policy co-creation platforms run by NYC and MCCY include the Youth Circles, the Youth Action Challenge and the Our Singapore Leadership Programme (OSLP).
First launched in 2017, the OLSP aims to develop young adult learners by connecting them with thought leaders, industry experts and union leaders.
In 2023, NYC will extend the programme to nominated Secondary 4 students from all MOE schools and Madrasahs in Singapore.
NYC will also develop a new leadership programme that will be announced at a later time.
SportSG launches National Registry of Exercise Professionals
There will now be a new registry for exercise professionals to build capabilities in the fitness industry.
Spearheaded by Sport Singapore (SportSG), the National Registry of Exercise Professionals (NREP) will be open for exercise professionals’ registration from April 2023. It will also take place in three phases starting from April.
During the first phase from April 2023 to March 2024, exercise professionals will be supported to up-skill and register on the NREP with free membership to the National Instructors and Coaches Association (NICA).
From April 2024, Government agencies that hire a sizable number of exercise professionals, including SportSG, People’s Association (PA), Health Promotion Board (HPB) and the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), can only hire exercise professionals registered under the NREP.
The later phase will see NREP strengthening the accreditation framework and further details of the requirement for a Basic Exercise Science certification.
Through the registry, SportSG aims to raise the overall standards and provide better support for exercise professionals through continuous learning and development resources.
More coffeeshops to offer cheap meals by 2026
By 2026, budget meals will have to be offered by all 374 coffeeshops that are rented out from the Housing and Development Board (HDB).
The requirement will be extended to older coffeeshops due for their three-yearly tenancy renewal from May 2023 onwards.
To help with the transition, rental coffeeshop operators and stallholders will be offered a rental discount of five per cent off their renewal rents for one year, from the time the new requirements are in place.
The prices of the budget meals and drinks will be benchmarked against economically priced F&B offerings in nearby neighbourhood coffeeshops.
READ: Over 370 HDB coffeeshops to offer budget meal and drink options by 2026
Salaries in social service sector to increase
Social service workers will undergo salary revisions from Apr 1.
Announced during the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) COS debate, the salaries of social service workers will be raised between four per cent and 15 per cent.
During his speech, Minister for Social and Family Development Masagos Zulkifli said that social workers need to be given “due recognition and support” in their work.
The National Council of Social Service (NCSS) shared that it will also step up its efforts to strengthen the Social Service Agency’s (SSA) volunteer management capabilities so that volunteers can “augment the capability and capacity of SSAs.”
More ways to catch drug abusers in Singapore
As part of methods to deter drug abuse in Singapore, authorities have started using a new method – saliva test kits – to detect drug users at border checkpoints and roadblock operations.
Minister of State for Home Affairs Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim said the kits have been used since January to “deter Singaporeans and permanent residents from abusing drugs overseas.”
The kit’s short turnaround time will aid officers in their assessment of potential drug abuse. It will detect a variety of drugs such as cocaine, methamphetamine and cannabis.
In 2022, the Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) saw a three per cent increase from the previous year in the number of drug abusers arrested. It also observed worrying trends of increased cannabis seizures and a growing number of new cannabis abusers below the age of 30.