Singapore

Marathon debate on Budget makes history

As the eight-day debate on the Government's spending plans for the coming financial year drew to a close, history of sorts was made.

The 530 questions prepared by MPs were allocated 52 hours in all, the highest in the past five years.

The achievement underscores the "breadth and gravity" of the issues Singapore faces, said Leader of the House Grace Fu yesterday, in her speech wrapping up the marathon session.

Job security remained a hot topic even as economic growth made a recovery last year, but this year's debates also saw a keen focus on social inequality and fostering a more caring society.

For instance, a recent Institute of Policy Studies survey, which showed a concentration of social networks around class differentiators like housing type and schools attended, as well as sociologist Teo You Yenn's book on inequality, were cited several times.

Ms Fu, who is also Minister for Culture, Community and Youth, said: "As we embrace globalisation and technology to expand opportunities for our businesses, to transform industries and build deep capabilities, how do we ensure that we move forward together and leave no one behind?".

She noted that a lot of time was spent debating the budgets of the Manpower Ministry, Ministry of Trade and Industry and Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth.

As we embrace globalisation and technology to expand opportunities for our businesses, to transform industries and build deep capabilities, how do we ensure that we move forward together and leave no one behind? Leader of the House Grace Fu

Parliament spent 21/2 days debating the national budget and the rest of the time on the 16 ministries' budgets.

Questions raised included how to support more vulnerable segments of the workforce, how to help enterprises to stay competitive and create good jobs for locals, and how to strengthen social cohesion across race, religion and class lines.

MPs also asked about dealing with external threats, such as extremism and cybersecurity issues, as well as domestic challenges, such as housing young couples and regulating personal mobility devices, said Ms Fu.

She highlighted how Nominated MP Kuik Shiao-Yin and Mr Murali Pillai (Bukit Batok) had spoken about the need for both pragmatism and ideals to bring Singapore forward.

Agreeing, she said: "To tackle the problems of today and prepare ourselves for tomorrow, we must be bold and embrace change.

"We must have that grit and bias for action that makes us an exceptional nation. This would not be the case if we had no ideals."- JOANNA SEOW

Singapore Politics