THIS WEEK’S TOPIC: What longer-term issues should Singapore’s 2020 Budget address?

Annie Koh
V3 Group Professor of Family Entrepreneurship
VP, Business Development
Singapore Management University

We DIG in for the long term.

No running away from Digitalisation – this demands attention beyond attending training programmes. It’s the adoption of tech to address the whole system and process approach that counts.

I is critical as it stands for integration – we cannot transform without getting the whole company transformed. Technology alone won’t work. We need the alignment of tech, talent and trust, believing that change is needed to build a more sustainable company, industry and ecosystem.

G is for growth which cannot happen if individuals and companies do not collaborate to innovate. The worst of times is the best of times to dig in – marry your domain expertise with other tech partners or startups and develop your people with real projects to be implemented. Almost like a live lab – experiment and learn. Time to DIG in together.

Victor Mills
Chief Executive
Singapore International Chamber of Commerce

Every Singapore government annual budget is designed to sustain Singapore’s success. Among the critical, long-term issues are Singapore’s further plans to mitigate the effects of climate change and the incentivisation of businesses and consumers to be less wasteful. Behaviour must change, and the best way is by financial carrots and sticks. Businesses should be rewarded for using less of the earth’s resources and recycling more of what they use. Consumers should be rewarded for using less plastic and recycling with care. Another longterm issue is how our society will end ageism in the workforce to maximise citizen potential.

Cheung Pui Yuen
Chief Executive Officer
Deloitte Singapore

While it is crucial that this year’s Budget address the immediate concerns of Singaporeans during this time of increasing volatility, the long-term planning to prepare our economy for the future should not be derailed. Businesses need support, not only to tide through potentially trying times as they adapt to global changes, but also in their quest to succeed, expand and innovate in line with Singapore’s ongoing economic transformation.

Policy support to develop and deepen workers’ capabilities should continue to remain high priority to assure the workforce of their jobs, and to make available quality human capital for businesses. Tackling climate change and encouraging sustainability efforts are other areas that require attention.

Citizen welfare in terms of health care and social support is also fundamental, given Singapore’s ageing population. The changes in recent years warrant measures that better reflect our economic, environmental and social needs.

Jayajyoti Sengupta
Head of Asia-Pacific, Japan, India and Middle East

Unlike past technology shifts, today’s digital era is about the coming together of multiple technologies such as automation, artificial intelligence, machine learning and augmented reality. We are therefore less likely to see long periods of stability.

This has made it imperative for all key stakeholders such as the government, industry and academia to continually collaborate in conceiving and driving new skilling approaches to facilitate greater innovation and build deeper, more diverse cross-functional competencies that the digital era mandates.

The 2020 Budget should focus on creating the necessary frameworks and platforms for Singapore to expand this collaboration, enabling society, business and governance to better embrace and benefit from the transformative potential of digital technologies.

John Lombard
Asia Pacific CEO

Today’s digital economy has created large-scale demand for automation, artificial intelligence and analytics skills, as we increasingly deploy these digital technologies to improve the way we work, live and play.

This year, concerns over the global economic slowdown are driving businesses to focus on increasing productivity and efficiency through the use of smart technologies as a key business priority. Budget 2020 can play a pivotal role in enabling their digital transformation journey. It should offer fiscally sustainable measures and incentives that can help businesses stay relevant and competitive to encourage innovation and digitalisation as Singapore pushes ahead to achieve its vision of becoming a leading AI hub.

Max Loh
EY Managing Partner, Brunei and Singapore
Ernst & Young LLP

Budget 2020 must invariably strike a balance between addressing the urgent – and the important. The novel coronavirus outbreak exacerbates business uncertainties and pressures caused by existing geopolitical and trade tensions and macroeconomic concerns. Short-term reliefs will be important to help businesses and people cope with the impact.

Yet, the Budget should press on with the economic transformation agenda that has been set in motion at the industry and workforce levels as a longer-term imperative. Continuing to elevate enterprise and workforce capabilities and addressing the gaps between current skills and future opportunities in the workforce is vital. Any periods of business slowdown during these uncertain times may optimistically be seen as availing companies and people of time, which can be reinvested into transformation, training and upskilling to ready themselves for growth going forward.

Yeoh Oon Jin
Executive Chairman
PwC Singapore

While in the short term we must help those impacted by the coronavirus outbreak, we must not lose sight of the need to continue transforming our economy to be fit for the long run.

Our tax system must remain competitive. Tax incentives that are now less attractive due to global developments should be adjusted, and tax rules and administration should be tweaked to provide greater transparency and certainty to investors. This would help Singapore differentiate itself as a hub location for international business, being in the centre of a fast-growing Asian economy.

It is by building for the future that Singapore will be well placed to withstand external shocks from time to time.

Lee Fook Chiew
Chief Executive Officer
Institute of Singapore Chartered Accountants

We hope that Singapore’s 2020 Budget will address the issue of educating and training students to be ready for the digital economy. The digitalisation of economies is now the new normal.

To thrive in the digital economy, Singapore’s workforce of tomorrow must integrate technologies into their daily lives. This requires Singaporeans’ mindsets to be changed from young. The education process should start before the tertiary level. Early exposure to digital technologies, coupled with education curriculum that focuses on building digital skills and fostering a mindset of resilience, adaptability and lifelong learning, will contribute towards building a digital-ready workforce for Singapore.

This was also shared by panellists at the recent ISCA Pre-Budget Roundtable 2020, where business and industry leaders shared insights on how Singapore’s Budget can be shaped to advance the nation’s future.

Ho Nyok Yong
Singapore Green Building Council

Climate change is not going anywhere. Increasingly extreme and erratic weather phenomena will continue to affect billions of people all around the globe. As a small low-lying coastal nation with an open economy, Singapore is particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change.

Climate action on a national level must be kicked into high gear, encompassing proven measures such as green building to effect affirmative climate action. We hope that a holistic, fiscally feasible and long-term climate action plan can be put forward by the government in this year’s Budget, alongside its priorities in social spending and business restructuring. This will provide industry stakeholders with a clearer direction and greater impetus to take concrete climate action for a more sustainable and liveable Singapore.

Dileep Nair
Independent Director
Thakral Corporation Limited

One secret of Singapore’s success is to keep preparing for the future. This is underwritten by the Budget – our long-term financial plan. Investment in infrastructure is critical, including renewal of public housing especially as the older estates age; extension of the road and rail network to keep transport efficient; upgrading of the port and airport for maintaining our top-class links with the world; and expanding our healthcare facilities, particularly to cater for our ageing population.

We must continue to invest in economic restructuring to produce new economic engines that will propel growth in the future. Likewise, there must be investment in education so that our tertiary institutions both equip their students with the knowledge and skills that the new economy demands, as well as provide lifelong learning for adult workers. Only by addressing such longer-term issues will we realise SG100.

Tony Lombardo
Chief Executive Officer, Asia
Chairman, Lendlease Global Commercial Trust Management Pte Ltd

The Budget should not lose sight of the Industry 4.0 revolution to continue to future-proof the economy. Our position as the regional hub for innovation presents the opportunity for us to continue to be a driving force for the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). The Budget must support the country’s transformation into a data-driven powerhouse. Industry 4.0 increases the productivity and competitiveness of our various sectors and will create the jobs of the future. Looking ahead to the next year and decade, the right focus on R&D and training investment would be key.

Thomas Holenia
Henkel Singapore

Recent events have reinforced the VUCA (volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity) environment we live in today. With people talent as Singapore’s critical asset and competitive advantage, it is imperative that incentives and measures for upskilling our workforce extend across technical competences, leadership abilities and instilling an entrepreneurial spirit.

In this aspect, Henkel Singapore actively supports our employees in continuous learning and leadership skills development while promoting a diverse and inclusive work culture. Sustainability is another key topic where we welcome a greater push for industry collaboration.

For example, we see benefits from our strong engagement in the Together for Sustainability initiative, where collectively with other leading companies, we are making progress on the sustainability agenda along the entire value chain of the chemical industry, globally and in the Asia-Pacific region.

Jayaprakash Jagateesan
Chief Executive Officer
RHT Fintech Holdings

The digital economy is set to play a larger role in Singapore’s growth over the long term. Financial technology and new solutions powered by blockchain will become more prevalent and open new possibilities, transforming the way we do business. Education and employment are two key areas that demand additional attention in the upcoming Budget to build a pipeline of future-ready local talent.

The digital economy has no geographic limitations; it can thrive anywhere with access to talent and connectivity. With the right steps in education and employment, Singapore can become a leading global hub for fintech.

Marjet Andriesse
Managing Director, Asia Pacific

Much has been done in recent years to encourage digital transformation, creating a wave of digitally-mature businesses in Singapore. With the digital economy of South-east Asia expected to triple by 2025, there is a clear growth opportunity for businesses that can engage in digital trade and take advantage of increased cross-border data flows.

There is value in investing in facilitating digital trade between Singapore and other countries. This includes practical improvements like the removal of barriers to cross-border payments and the creation of common standards for artificial intelligence. This will ultimately lower costs for businesses, as well as increase their overall efficiency over time. These digital rules and standards will help create trust and confidence for businesses and facilitate the growth of Singapore’s digital economy.

Peh Kim Choo
Chief Executive Officer
Tsao Foundation

In just 10 years’ time, a quarter of Singapore’s population will be aged 65 years and above. To prepare for this, the healthcare system is being transformed and continuous learning and volunteering encouraged among older persons. Yet ageism remains prevalent, causing many cultural, social-economic and structural barriers that prevented older people and society to reap the dividends of longevity.

Budget 2020 can work with all levels of societies to bring about a mindset change – to do a re-vision on the capacity and role of older people by current evidence, not prejudice, and to make removing ageism a part of the practice and mainstream policy.

Peter Seow
iPlus Living

Despite the government reaffirming plans to spend S$2.4 billion to drive the country’s smart nation efforts and digital transformations, I believe more can be done in this aspect. 2020 will witness an increase in the automation of daily life, through machine learning, smart technologies, 5G telecommunications and artificial intelligence (AI).

I would like to see in the upcoming Budget more long-term initiatives in place to enable traditional businesses to adapt to the new digital economy. Smart products and services must be made available for all homes and businesses to help with future-proofing our society. Paying attention to and prioritising the needs of Singaporeans will also play a significant role in driving our nation’s overall transformation success.

Hari V Krishnan
PropertyGuru Group

In Singapore’s 2020 Budget, I hope to see a greater commitment to sustainability and urban development. Singapore has the opportunity to take a leadership position on urban living in Asia by evolving our current policies to better encourage and reward developers that champion sustainable practices across all elements of their projects. These initiatives and grants should also benefit those purchasing, and investing in green developments.

Incentivising sustainable practices, not only at a large organisational level but also a local community level, needs to be more aggressively addressed. For example, how can we reward the community for being sustainability advocates and taking simple actions like eliminating the use of single-use plastics.

I also hope to see ongoing commitment and investment towards technology that will foster widespread sustainable practices (ie urban development processes, sustainable water usage, recycling infrastructure, etc), which in turn results in significant action against climate change.

Turochas ‘T’ Fuad
MD, Southeast Asia and Korea

Today’s business climate is no longer influenced by just economic factors. Unpredictable and diverse factors have led to increased vulnerability for Singapore’s economy. This has highlighted the importance and urgency for companies to be empowered with agility and flexibility to address the challenges.

As South-east Asia continues to be in a positive growth trajectory, Singapore’s position in advancing this growth will become critical. For this year’s Budget, I would like to see a greater emphasis given to supporting companies and their future-proofing strategies. From talent to infrastructure and operations, companies need to have the right support to drive efficiency during challenging times and scale readily when opportunities arise.

Sandie Overtveld

Historically, Singapore has consistently and successfully adjusted its sails to maximise global tailwinds or when faced with economic headwinds. As our geopolitical climate shifts, there are a number of long (and near) term issues it should focus on in order to maintain its position as one of the world’s most competitive economies, according to the World Economic Forum.

These include: continuing to build its reputation globally for being pro-business; accelerating its evolution towards being a leading digital economy with an emphasis on advancing its artificial intelligence capabilities; championing cultural diversity and inclusion; boosting investment into talent development across its entire workforce; and continuing to pledge its support for policies that seek to mitigate the effects of climate change. Ultimately, I believe Singapore will be able to weather any uncertainties as long as we continue to work together to build on its success.

Martin Lim
Electrify Pte Ltd

The present levels of greenhouse emissions are no longer tenable, having led to extreme weather events that threaten survival and business continuity. I hope that the Budget can place an emphasis on greener business practices, establishing the necessary foundation for long-term sustainable growth.

One viable strategy is to encourage the adoption of renewable energy among our enterprises, leveraging technologies such as peer-to-peer energy trading. This creates an avenue for private energy producers to provide additional renewable energy options for consumers while allowing them to monetise on this surplus energy, potentially accelerating solar panel ownership and renewable energy uptake in Singapore.

David Kirubi
Country GM, Singapore & GM, Transformation, Asia-Pacific
Johnson Controls

There is clear urgency to address the impact of systemic and material changes caused by climate change and global health-related concerns. The private sector cannot afford to ignore critical parameters beyond the financials. Singapore’s Budget 2020 should look to better shepherding corporates to adopt the triple bottom line, which includes social and environmental considerations.

We see real opportunities with the strides we are making in technology. For the built environment, we now have unprecedented visibility into the total operational costs over a facility’s entire life cycle. We can identify gaps in human and equipment productivity, physical and cyber security, as well as asset utilisation; hence significantly optimising resources and improving human experience while achieving business goals. The adoption of such technology can be accelerated with more bespoke policy by the government and programmes by the public sector.

Tomas O’Farrell

With the global economic climate becoming challenging, a Budget that addresses re-skilling and providing opportunities for the digital economy workers of Singapore’s future would be progressive and strategic. As the status quo changes and Singaporeans need the digital skills, programmes, that prepare them for the shared economy would be critical for the on-going development of the country.

Key to this is the collaboration between the government, private sector and public to understand and embrace new ways of working including flexible and freelance working careers. Only by re-thinking how we work, can Singaporeans and businesses increase productivity and remain competitive in a rapidly changing environment.

Yu Tat Ming
Chief Executive Officer
PacificLight Power

While it is important to provide temporary relief to mitigate economic slowdown brought about by the novel coronavirus to the affected sectors, sustainability remains of strategic importance in the long term. The Singapore 2020 Budget should be geared towards preparing the nation for the future, with initiatives such as schemes that support the adoption of best efficiency practices and improvements across different industries.

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For example, grants incentivising businesses to adopt sustainable practices will bring about significant reductions in carbon emissions and at the same time create economic spinoffs in the form of new technologies. The overall cost savings and improvement in productivity will strengthen Singapore’s economy and make it more robust.

Veronica Shim
Founder and CEO
Envysion Wealth Management

Over the years, the Budget focused primarily on restructuring the economy by encouraging automation, risk-taking, innovation, developing test-beds for startups, business transformation and support for lower income groups. This year, the Singapore government should pay close attention to the underlying forces that will affect Singapore in the medium and long term. These include factors such as climate change and rising sea levels, the pathway at the Arctic that will affect the strategic importance of Singapore’s port and gateway to the other parts of the world to skills sets that Singaporeans will require to manage the benefits and issues that 5G will bring. It will also be important to address demographic changes and the structural changes around the world.

Mario Singh
Chief Executive Officer
Fullerton Markets

One of the hallmarks of Singapore’s success is its commitment to plan for the future. Against this backdrop, there are three areas which Budget 2020 should address with a long-term perspective:

1) Better urban planning – As the population increases, the government needs to look into areas such as housing, pollution, traffic congestion and infrastructure. One praiseworthy initiative is that Singapore has set a target to have 80 per cent of its buildings with the BCA Green Mark certification by 2030.

2) Stronger global competitiveness – In October 2019, Singapore was ranked the world’s most competitive nation by the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report. it is important that Singapore maintains this edge by introducing policies that are pro-business and innovation-centric.

3) Deeper Asean Integration – With a combined population of 640 million people, Asean holds tremendous economic opportunities for the world. By integrating deeper with our Asean neighbours in areas such as connectivity, fintech and sectoral cooperation, we would unlock even more potential for our country and Singaporeans as a whole.

Isabel Chong
Country Manager (Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore) Electrical Sector
Eaton East Asia

Amid rising energy appetites, greater support for the adoption of low-carbon, energy-efficient technologies will be paramount to meeting Singapore’s long-term sustainability goals. Singapore’s demand for power is only set to grow, and the Budget must go towards programmes and initiatives that encourage businesses here to invest in technologies that not only aid more efficient power management, but also improve power quality as well. As we move towards an era of smart grids guided by intelligent energy planning and consumption to help us in our transition towards renewables, companies will need to invest heavily into modernising and retrofitting their energy infrastructure.

Alex Teo
MD and VP, South East Asia
Siemens Digital Industries Software

Manufacturing accounts for a significant portion of Singapore’s gross domestic product (GDP), and contributes hundreds of thousands of jobs to the local economy. While the sector appears to be in recovery after a challenging year marked by uncertainty, it is an important reminder that the industry needs to become more resilient against unpredictable factors such as global economic headwinds and digital disruption.

Besides encouraging digitalisation, professional upskilling is also crucial to empower talents to direct and control this technology, which will help realise Singapore’s vision of Industry 4.0. This allows firms to be more adaptable and scalable, allowing them access to opportunities across a wider range of emerging industries such as biomedical and aerospace engineering, turning crisis into opportunity.

Kent Nash
GM, Asia Pacific & Japan
Solace Corporation

Despite the short-term market fluctuations, Singapore should not veer off from its long-term goal of building a resilient economy through continued commitment towards supporting businesses’ digital transformations. Businesses that thrive in today’s digital economy are ones that are ”always on” – responding to the events that matter, and anticipating the events, so they can avoid problems and take full advantage of opportunities.

However, this has been challenging as consumers have raised the bar on what ”timely” means and now expect real-time responsiveness. Technology is supposed to help, but a lot of the legacy technology systems are not designed for a real-time world. Having the resources to enhance the necessary technological infrastructure to achieve real-time responsiveness will be imperative for businesses to stay competitive.

John Chen
VP, Global Forwarding, Asia
CH Robinson

Despite a challenging economic environment, a unified and efficient global supply chain remains a major driver of competitiveness and market leadership for export-reliant economies such as Singapore.

The 2020 Singapore Budget should look at continuing to reinforce our position as a global logistics hub. Initiatives focusing on grooming talent and innovating technologies in wholesale trade and logistic sectors not only support our push towards becoming a Smart Nation, but will further reinforce our commitment towards helping businesses innovate and globalise. Open innovation platforms such as Networked Trade Platform, launched in 2018, should remain an ongoing priority development for Singapore in order to allow long-term economic growth and value creation to take place.

Munenori Ando
Regional Managing Director
Epson Singapore

In the future, Singapore will continue to face environmental challenges that we must be prepared for. While the government is already taking proactive steps to address many of these issues, businesses need to do their part to help Singapore reduce its collective burden on the environment. Sustainable business practices create long-term value, not just by strengthening the resilience of an organisation against change, but also positively contributing to the economy and broader society. As such, companies like Epson aim to create synergies through open innovation with partners and customers based on innovative technologies, products and services, so that everyone plays a positive role in creating a better world.

Joanne Wong
Vice President, APJ

In preparing our economy for the future, Singapore has been pushing businesses and organisations to adopt digital technologies. Yet, a sound digital strategy needs to go hand-in-hand with a strong cyber security posture, where identifying and detection of network behavioural anomalies is early, responding to and remediating threats is swift.

However, achieving this requires more than beefing up on cyber security spending, but also investing effort and resources to build a strong technology talent pool. This includes encouraging the current workforce to expand skillsets and getting our next generations interested in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics). After all, Singapore’s race to become a smart, digital nation is not a destination, but a journey.

Axel Berkling
Executive Vice President
KONE Asia Pacific

Budget 2020 has to address both short and long-term issues facing Singapore’s businesses today. I hope that measures will be introduced to help incentivise companies to embrace sustainable business practices and support Singapore’s goal of becoming a sustainability hub. At KONE, we believe sustainability helps businesses and communities to remain innovative and competitive.

From an environmental standpoint, the Budget should introduce fiscal measures such as tax incentives and grants that will help promote investment and focus on more green, energy-efficient buildings. Also, the government should encourage sustainable financing by offering tax rebates and exemptions for investors who invest in green bonds, social bonds and other sustainable financing facilities.

Frankie Chia
Managing Partner

A good balance between meeting immediate needs and building sustainability remains key to Singapore’s future.

We must continue to push the boundaries and set the standards for a Smart Nation. More incentives such as the investment allowance and enhanced deduction should be given to companies which embark on digitalisation.

As companies in Singapore are climbing onto the green bandwagon, the government may incentivise companies which actively go green – with perhaps tax rebates for reducing printing, using equipment with low carbon emission, etc.

In the face of an ageing population in Singapore, the government can continue to raise efforts in shaping the future of health care in Singapore and actively promote healthy living and preventive health programmes. This includes partnering with overseas academies to create opportunities for meaningful collaborations where our researchers and scientists can tap on global networks to accelerate research and innovation.

Abhishek Chatterjee
Founder and CEO
Tookitaki Holding Pte Ltd

The call for applications for digital banking licences heralds a new age in Singapore’s journey to liberalise its financial sector, one that will deliver speed, convenience and choice for both wholesale and retail bank consumers. The rapid digitisation of the financial sector will inevitably present its own set of challenges.

Recent events globally – such as a rise in fraud, money-laundering scandals, as well as cases around corporate corruption and the financing of terrorism – pose very real threats to the financial sector. The industry sees a marked need for greater efficiency around tracking illegal financial activity. Prior to ushering in the banking revolution, perhaps Budget 2020 could address investment into the revisiting and updating of the regulatory framework surrounding financial institutions.

Ivy Lai
Country Manager
Philips Singapore

The healthcare industry is facing unprecedented challenges to improve healthcare standards and manage rising costs due to an aging population, rising rates of chronic diseases and healthcare resource constraints. We need to invest in the use of technology to resolve these issues and challenges in order to improve patient outcomes across the health continuum – from healthy living and prevention, to diagnosis, treatment and home care. For example, artificial intelligence can help people make sense of large amounts of data, while also having the potential to adapt to the needs of healthcare professionals and people, extend their abilities, and help them achieve better health outcomes.

Stu Garrow
SVP & General Manager, APAC

According to an IDC study in the Asean region, Singapore is the third place when it comes to artificial intelligence (AI) adoption rates. Government announcements on the implementation of a National AI Strategy last year and a new AI Governance Framework a few weeks ago position the nation on its way to becoming a leader in the AI market.

The government can further encourage this development by equipping the country’s workforce and businesses with AI tools, training and grants to ensure faster adoption of AI in this technology-driven economy. AI has the potential to reinvigorate the country’s economy and boost its industrial profits. According to a recent report by Accenture, AI could add up to US$215 billion in gross value across 11 industries by 2035.

Vikas Nahata
Co-Founder and Executive Chairman
Validus Capital

In the anticipation of a tough year ahead for the Singapore economy, business measures should be in place to address relevant business needs, especially those of SMEs, to help them stay afloat and catapult. We hope that Budget 2020 will be able to better support strategies like growth financing for investments in technology that could help in technology adoption for SMEs to stay sustainable and grow, unlocking long-term socio-economic impact. There is a need for increased liquidity through new schemes and greater access to financial solutions to help businesses better position themselves for the global economy’s next upswing.

Edward Senju
Regional CEO
Sansan Global Pte Ltd

With the changing market conditions and rapid fluctuations in the modern economy, it has become incumbent upon businesses to continue to create new opportunities for growth – this is where a massive government push is needed. The Budget must power up high-growth local firms to build new capabilities, innovate and internationalise in the long run.

While digitisation will be key to the government’s business transformation agenda, offering help and expertise to overcome the challenges that accompany this change is also a must. Moreover, automation support, if directed towards enhancing the productivity of businesses, will help the economy prosper in the long term.

People will always be a major driving force behind innovation and national progress, therefore support measures offered must positively impact present to future generations. Empowering the workforce to upskill and engage in higher-value work will improve their future prospects.

Matthieu Imbert-Bouchard
Managing Director
Robert Half Singapore:

In order for Singapore to remain competitive on the global stage, the city-state would benefit from continued support to accelerate the digitisation of services and operations, which in turn is expected to drive many emerging job opportunities. Simultaneously, many companies currently struggle to find the talent to support such initiatives. So with the skills gap hindering companies’ ability to grow, plans and resources to help the Singaporean workforce to upskill so they prepare it for a future of technological disruption, greater competition, and economic changes is key for business growth.

Dolly Goh
Singapore National Co-operative Federation (SNCF)

Healthcare expenditure, already the third highest area of Singapore’s spending after defence and education, should continue to be in the spotlight given the country’s ageing demographics. Currently, there are subsidies on selected medical services with additional benefits for Pioneer and Merdeka generations.

But in planning ahead, we need to factor in expenditures beyond basic healthcare provisions. This is because not only is the number of older Singaporeans likely to double by 2030, recent official statistics show that the proportion of elderly persons living alone is growing. With these trends, the approach to healthcare needs to be holistic, covering geriatrics.

Social entities such as co-operatives can step in to address some areas of healthcare needs such as long-term affordable and holistic healthcare services like senior homes and eldercare centres. Together, co-operating with other healthcare providers and the government, the aggregation of purchase of drugs and medical supplies could bring down costs for the end-users.

Edmund Lee
Managing Director Singapore
TMF Group

While the Budget is likely to be dominated by immediate support and relief measures as a result of the novel coronavirus situation, we do believe it will still contain longer term initiatives reflecting the government’s policy for the years to come.

We hope to see a continued focus on Singapore’s Smart Nation initiative; more robust measures to encourage and support firms to deepen enterprise capabilities in areas such as digitisation, artificial intelligence and robot process automation (RPA), will position them well for the future economy.

In addition, with climate change’s rising ubiquity, we are hoping the Budget will reinforce Singapore’s commitment to reduce its emissions intensity. This could be through the provision of green incentives such as grants to increase the adoption of electric vehicles, and public education on recycling.

Laletha Nithiyanandan
Managing Director
Behavioural Consulting Group

Singapore needs to move away from focussing only on economic growth to adopting a more balanced Budget like New Zealand.

GDP cannot be the only measure of success for any government; it needs to serve all of its citizens. The Budget should pave the way for purposeful capitalism, innovation and needs to ensure we move beyond campaigns to action. Government and quasi-government bodies need to stop competing within the business sector. They need to focus on core services and not be so caught up in making money. This will enable the business sector to create employment and boost the economy.

Charlie Foo
VP and GM, Asia Pacific
Mellanox Technologies

Innovation is the building block for sustainable competitive advantage in the 21st century. National prosperity is created, not inherited. Innovation was the secret sauce that propelled Singapore from Third World to First in the last century. The incessant drive for continuous improvement and upgrade, assisted by technologies and strategies, helps produce a business-first mindset, world-class infrastructure and financial and political stability that Singapore is best known for today.

I am hopeful the 2020 Budget will continue to put in measures to sharpen Singapore’s competitive edge and the roles it plays on the global stage in the long run, while inspiring new ideas and creating opportunities across expanding industries in a sustainable way.

Suganthi Shivkumar
MD for ASEAN, India and Korea

Singapore’s 2020 Budget should address the importance of data literacy and recognise its impact on the workforce. The data literacy gap is costing businesses across the globe billions of dollars in lost productivity annually. Given that the data economy is in full swing, being data literate is no longer an option, and business leaders must do everything they can to ensure that their workforce is fully equipped with this skillset. With a foundation of data literacy set in place, businesses can then enhance decision-making through the power of Augmented Intelligence, an approach which brings together the best of machine intelligence and human intuition so smarter, bolder discoveries happen every day.

Christina Teo
Executive Director
Singapore Association of Pharmaceutical Industries (SAPI)

Singapore has made great strides in public health, with one of the highest life expectancies in the world at 83 years at a remarkably efficient expenditure of 5 per cent of GDP. However, on average, 10 of these years are spent in ill health, undermining Singaporeans’ ability to live comfortably and contribute further to the economy.

To address this, SAPI anticipates that Budget 2020 would invest further in preventive health care, such as providing further significant funding for vaccination subsidy and public awareness programmes; and increased funding for diagnostics, including genetic testing, to detect conditions earlier resulting in better treatment outcomes.

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For patients already living with illnesses such as cancer, rare diseases and chronic diseases, Singapore is a hub in South-east Asia for research, development and production of novel treatments that can extend and improve quality of life. Our 3M framework that encourages shared responsibility for funding health care is unique and world-class. For instance, Medishield Life provides immediate access to life-changing cancer treatment once approved in Singapore – faster than most countries.

We can further strengthen this framework by expanding coverage to include the first month of life, providing subsidies for all rare disease types beyond the select identified ones, increasing claims limits for serious illnesses, and improving flexibility of claims for outpatient treatments. While we can further enhance funding and subsidy, co-payment remains important to safeguard against the ”buffet syndrome”.

Amit Anand
Co-Founder & Managing Partner
Jungle Ventures

While Singapore is well on the path to become the country of choice for startups in Asia, more measures can be taken to cement the attractiveness of the country. For instance, it will be great to make Employee Stock Options Plan (ESOP)/Employee Share Ownership (ESOW) non-taxable for a couple of decades to grow the ecosystem and attract higher quality global talent to Singapore – a critical element of building a leading startup ecosystem. While a disruptive move, it will truly demonstrate Singapore’s intent to support the rapidly growing wave of entrepreneurship globally.

Naveen Menon
President ASEAN

One of the key areas Budget 2020 should consider is how to encourage businesses to adopt flexible working arrangements especially in the burgeoning digital economy. The success of flexible work arrangements, as evidenced by Cisco’s own experience, is a combination of several factors – good infrastructure, suitable technology, and people’s mindsets. Singapore already has a head start in deploying world-class ICT infrastructure. As the country now moves into the next wave of connectivity such as 5G and Wi-Fi6, there is a need to ensure that such infrastructure is deployed with both scalability and security in mind. On suitable technology, although leading-edge collaboration technologies are available today, full deployment and use of such technology still only exists in pockets in Singapore. Budget 2020 can provide incentives for companies to put in place and encourage the use of such technologies. Lastly, one of the biggest challenges to enabling remote work is people’s mindsets. It takes a shift in culture and an environment of trust for employers and employees to telework effectively together. Budget 2020 can help by providing rebates for Singaporeans and businesses to adapt by training and retraining – both employers and employees – to equip us with the skills and mindset to fully leverage the advantages and capabilities of the ”workspace of the future.

Maren Schweizer
Schweizer World Pte Ltd

A)Pave the way to a circular economy, by building trust and taking direct actions to manage climate change efficiently. Corporates and government should steer outcomes jointly at a system level.

B) Establish a landscape for technologies that don’t exist.

Based on emerging technologies, it’s essential to evaluate what might come next as the rate of change is speeding up. Innovation can offer solutions to the challenges presented by our aging population, and the next ten years will be critical for our preparations.

C) Prepare for the makeup of the future workforce:

Identifying future roles, deciding on the skill sets needed to fill them, and developing teaching strategies and educational organisations.

Navigating the complexities of the transformative decade ahead requires trust. Therefore I see the need to review our governance models to harness the power of technology for good.

David Baey
Co-Founder and CEO
Mortgage Master

Singapore has done exceptionally well to nurture a thriving startup ecosystem – one that currently attracts 70 per cent of Southeast Asia’s venture capital funding, and boasts many emerging companies offering new services to improve our lives. As these startups scale, internationalise and export their services, they create jobs and boost Singapore’s economic competitiveness in the long run.

The challenge for startups is competing with unicorns – with significantly larger war chests – for the talent we need to scale. The local pool of software developers and digital marketers is limited but demand continues to rise. We will therefore benefit greatly from the Budget offering rebates to lower the cost of hiring skilled labour and helping more accredited institutions provide reskilling programmes at a subsidised rate.

Ng Yi Ming
Managing Partner
Tribe Accelerator

Nurturing entrepreneurship will help shape Singapore’s future, and is thereby a key area to address in Singapore’s 2020 Budget. Removing the barriers to progress like knowledge and collaboration gaps for businesses in the emerging fields like blockchain, AI and IoT will fuel their progress. The government has already been showing immense support to drive the development of deep technologies and elevating these efforts will go a long way in securing Singapore’s position as a smart, innovative and financially strong nation.

Malina Platon
Managing Director, ASEAN

Singapore needs to look ahead to become a Smart Nation and prepare for a future where our colleagues will come in both robot and human form. Automation technologies such as Robotic Process Automation (RPA) promise to drive greater productivity and economic growth for many countries, especially Singapore which has made considerable investments in automation and Artificial Intelligence (AI).

In order for Singapore to thrive in the Automation First era, we need to invest in ensuring the local workforce has the skills and abilities to be able to realise the potential of automation. Students – from primary school onwards – should be introduced to and taught automation and low coding programmes. Our universities should work with the private sector to incorporate automation technologies into their curriculums and companies should reskill and upskill existing employees. The government should play a role in promoting these efforts and helping to fund where needed.

Derek Wang
General Manager, Singapore
Alibaba Cloud

Singapore’s longstanding emphasis on the development of human capital has contributed to its stellar economy and highly skilled workforce. As we chart a new path forward in the new digital decade, Singapore must continue to upskill its workforce with the relevant knowledge and experience to excel in emerging technological trends such as AI and automation. As a member of Singapore’s society, Alibaba Cloud is proud to be a part of the country’s journey to transform its digital natives into digital talents. We hope that our work with higher and secondary/post-secondary institutions will help next-generation talents hone their digital skillsets so Singapore’s economy continues to punch above its weight internationally in the long run.

Nick Lim
GM, Asia Pacific and Japan

Singapore has always been supportive of the business sector, especially in helping local businesses to gain a competitive edge. The government has also been committed to developing the skills and capabilities of local talent. The next critical step will be to ensure continuous support for lifelong learning, that will allow Singaporean companies to operate at a world-class level and be prepared for the digital economy.

We hope to see a continued emphasis on developing educational courses on new technologies, particularly in the field of data science, which will allow organisations to benefit and realise the value of data-driven business decisions. Employers, educational institutions, and businesses must also play a role in the ecosystem of educating the youth and upscaling the skills of Singaporean workers through committed partnerships and initiatives.

Andie Rees
Managing Partner, South East Asia
Odgers Berndtson

While much has been said about reskilling workers so that they stay relevant, equally important is the need for business leaders to augment their capabilities to lead their organisations forward. From our studies, successful companies are helmed by leaders who are agile, willing to embrace changes and are collaborative, which leads to greater staff confidence and commitment to organisational transformation process. Business leaders can be supported through continual and re-learning of leadership practices, and building of communities of practice. As a Chinese saying goes, while a fence is supported by three stakes, a capable man needs the support of three people. To this end, there is value in building a robust ecosystem matching businesses, industry associations and leadership institutions for learning, mentoring, greater networking and collaboration that may help leaders be better equipped to manage through disruptions in whatever form that be.

Lim Soon Hock
Managing Director

Singapore should continue to be concerned with the lack of a critical mass of large local companies with global footprints. The Budget should address this, while there is still time, before it is too late, should foreign investments hollow out in the future to larger economies such as China, compelled by the need to compete with the likes of Alibaba, Tencent or Huawei. There is the critical need to ensure that the status quo – where Singaporeans have access to good and high paying jobs, as well as a high quality of life – can at least be sustained.

Enterprise Singapore’s initiative to groom promising SMEs to become large local companies through Scale-up SG should be expanded to benefit more deserving SMEs that need help to accelerate up the growth curve. The Budget should seek to enhance quality over quantity in our large SMEs pool. It is not enough for SMEs to provide much of the employment in Singapore. There is an untapped role for SMEs to offer high quality and rewarding jobs when some of them evolve to be global players.

Jessie Xia
MD, Southeast Asia

Digitally-ready talent will continue to be critical to Singapore’s future, as the country’s robust Internet economy seeks to scale greater heights amidst an uncertain global climate.

With technological disruption already pervasive in all industries, the 2020 Budget should aim to help companies raise their employees’ digital capabilities and soft skills – setting up internal initiatives and providing growth opportunities – to alleviate Singapore’s ongoing job-skills mismatch and put companies in stronger positions to become truly modern digital businesses.

The Budget should also promote further collaboration between the tech industry and government, to foster deeper expertise in technologies including data, cloud, and platforms across the local talent pool.

Toby Koh
Group MD
Ademco Security Group

The Singapore government has a reputation of planning for the long term. Hence more targeted funding and effort have been invested in building longer-term capabilities in our SMEs, the latest being Enterprise Singapore (ESG)’s Scale-up SG programme which Ademco Security Group is participating in. We are working closely with McKinsey to sharpen our strategy across our Group, focussing primarily on our overseas markets that have shown great potential and real traction, such as Vietnam, Philippines, India and Indonesia.

I urge the government to continue to invest in promising Singapore firms that can go out and grow regionally or even globally. Invest more resources in helping committed companies build market access. This calls for more ESG boots on the ground and other go-to-market resources. Getting a foothold in these promising markets is a priority and is certainly time-sensitive.

Ronak Shah
Chief Executive Officer
QBE Insurance (Singapore) Pte Ltd

Coming into 2020, we see that issues such as technological disruption and climate change that were major subjects of debate last year have continued to see sustained attention on a national level. Considering our current volatile global economy, implementing training and continued skills upgrading programmes proactively is important and highly necessary in easing the steep learning curve.

While it is uncertain how far-reaching their effects can be on businesses here, anticipating future needs and arming ourselves with the right tools and resources to mitigate these issues is how we can achieve long-term stability. Businesses can also help to highlight the dialogue on key issues through active participation and discussion at the grassroots level and as intermediaries for the public and government.

Sng Khai Lin
Co-founder and CFO
Fundnel Ltd

In the grand scheme of things, support packages only provide temporary relief. Allowing people to fish the proverbial fish on their own would help a nation better navigate challenging climates. Today, private equity — a component of growing importance in a well-balanced investment portfolio — remains exclusive to the affluent because of an assumption that these accredited investors are more financially-savvy. With proper education and regulatory support, retail investors can benefit from the private capital markets and, in turn, through investments, contribute to the economy.

Bharath Vellore
Managing Director, Asia Pacific

Rising digitisation and automation is the reality of the world in today’s workplace, so the workforce must be prepared for this development. With initiatives like SkillsFuture, the Singapore government has been upskilling workers and we see sustained efforts continuing through Budget 2020 and a focus on digital technologies.

In Singapore, the financial services and maritime industries are also a part of the digital transformation agenda, evident in initiatives like new digital banking licences and the Networked Trade Platform (NTP). It is therefore important that the Budget reinforces these, as well as ancillary sectors, to help them keep up with regulatory requirements and the disruption around new technologies.

Helen Ng

The Singapore Budget 2020 should address the persistent challenges that SMEs face, namely, rising labour and other business costs. The implementation of the Progressive Wage Model (PWM) amid a gloomy economic climate (which would likely worsen due to the outbreak of the novel coronavirus) has increased the financial burden on small businesses at a time when they are already struggling to compete in the broader market. The Budget should also address the administrative obstacles that small businesses face when applying for grants and other subsidies. The application process is onerous and unlike large corporations, we do not necessarily have the resources to put together proposals that are ”ready for approval”.

Ravindran Shanmugam
Country Head, Singapore

Local firms need to build a culture of innovation, especially through technology, to remain globally competitive – and I hope this will be addressed in this year’s Budget.

The interior design industry is a great example. Technology is transforming the way homes are designed, visualised for customers, and built. A technology platform brings together everyone involved in renovating a home (designers, contractors, suppliers, customers) to deliver a transparent, high-quality, hassle-free experience.

I would like to see the Budget increase funding for businesses looking to develop their technology platforms, so that this kind of experience is available across more and more industries.

Edwin Koh
Director, Southeast Asia
Limelight Networks

As Singapore gears up for 5G rollout in 2020, government and businesses should assess their 5G readiness to cope with growing levels of web traffic and Internet data. All these data must be processed quickly and reliably, and edge computing, with its capabilities to process data closer to each user, presents transformative opportunities to improve latencies and reliability of services in the long run. However, to get there, the economy must take stock of infrastructure requirements for enhanced mobile broadband, IoT, and mission-critical applications, and put in place the necessary investments to realise the performance potential of a 5G nation.

Serkan Cetin
Technical Director, APJ
One Identity

Cybersecurity was on top of the agenda in the 2019 Budget and the matter has since gained significance. With 5G rolling out this year, new aspects of interconnectivity will create unprecedented growth opportunities. However, technological advancements across industries may increase the risk exposure if comprehensive internal and external cybersecurity measures are not implemented. For instance, in 2019, 100 per cent of IT security professionals in Singapore who’ve experienced Pass the Hash attacks reported a direct impact on their business, where most breaches involved compromised credentials within organisations’ own systems.

Therefore, the 2020 Budget should encourage enterprises to invest in building cyber resilience and emphasise the importance of digital security as a pillar of Singapore’s digital defence framework.

Leslie Ong
Country Manager, Southeast Asia
Tableau Software

Building a highly skilled, competent workforce and ensuring the employability of Singaporeans should remain a central economic goal and focus in this year’s Budget. Jobs are evolving very quickly and there’s a greater requirement not only for specialised skills but also for the entire workforce to adopt and work with new technologies. Working with data is one of the most imperative skills going into the future as the nation and businesses look to truly capitalise on this valuable resource. The challenge is then to ensure that both the current and the next generation of workers are equipped with the data skills they need to succeed in the future of work. The government has in place many initiatives in upskilling the current workforce, but this needs to be accelerated if we want to propel the economy forward. From a longer-term perspective, we need to anticipate and skill-up the workforce of tomorrow. The Budget should address how education institutions can better anticipate and respond to the skills needed to make today’s students employable.

Jean Thomas
Chief Marketing Officer
Pomelo Fashion

With e-commerce growing at an unprecedented rate, e-commerce sales are projected to top US$3.9 trillion this year. Whilst businesses realise that it’s critical to shift towards digitisation to succeed and adapt to the new market reality, costs remain one of the largest roadblocks in their journey to scale up. To ensure differentiation from competitors as well as continued business growth, there is a need to invest in cutting-edge technology, which many successful brands have leveraged on to design great customer experiences. To support high-growth companies to scale up and transform digitally, the government can look at funding programmes as well as providing tax incentives.

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Praveen Kumar
General Manager, Asia Pacific
ASG Technologies

As Singapore progresses towards becoming a Smart Nation, the government should continue to address enhancements in digital defence. Cyberattacks, data breaches and system failures are some of the growing threats that demand the country’s continuing vigilance. It is a key priority not only for businesses but also for the government to heighten cyber defence capabilities, enhance privacy controls and review existing policies, in order to achieve a greater level of collective cybersecurity. Digital technology is now an integral part of the Singapore infrastructure. Providing the right framework and policies, including enforcement of the same by the government, will ensure a safe and secure technology environment.

Sudhir Agarwal

Singapore has had consistency with its investments in education, healthcare, security and infrastructure, allowing Singaporeans to enjoy one of the highest standards of living in Asia. While Singapore’s core challenges are of the aging population and limited natural resources, Singapore’s greatest strength has always been its ability to think differently and think long-term. As 5G networks are set to connect the next generation of people, services and smart homes, the 2020 Budget should address how it can seize the opportunity to build a transformational and sustainable ecosystem. To thrive longterm, Singapore needs to continue to invest in Artificial Intelligence, Internet of Things (IoT) and green-tech talent and IP. In times of uncertainty and rapid technological advances, we need to be innovative.

April Tayson
Director, Southeast Asia

With the rise of the digital economy, businesses in Singapore are embracing the mobile economy with key technologies leading transformation in the nation. Adoption of emerging technology, such as artificial intelligence, robotics and the Internet of Things is increasing as companies get ready to capitalise on fifth-generation (5G) mobile technology. In view of that, it would be excellent if the government continues to provide grants and incentives in the mobile technology space to further encourage adoption such as the Startup SG Tech initiative that supports local firms, ensuring that Singapore enterprises remain competitive in the global marketplace.

Clara Lim
Managing Director, Asia Pacific

With Southeast Asia’s Internet economy continuing its rapid growth, the Budget should look to help companies better integrate digital innovation, such as ecommerce tools and cloud-native services, which will become even more pervasive at workplaces and in everyday lives.

The recent outbreak situation has also encouraged a surge in online transactions and home deliveries as people opt to avoid public or crowded places. With brick-and-mortar sectors already affected – particularly in retail, F&B and hospitality – the Budget can minimise impact to the wider economy, by helping ecommerce and delivery players shift towards more digitally-integrated models. This might be done by encouraging adoption of headless eCommerce solutions that enable real-time, on-the-fly adjustments to enable more individualised consumer experiences for business platforms.

Andrew Chan
Founder and CEO
ACI HR Solutions

Whilst I’m sure the 2020 Budget will contain some short-term assistance in light of the coronavirus outbreak, ultimately for businesses to not only survive but to thrive in the future, it will rest on their effective utilisation of manpower and balancing that with how they integrate some form of digitalisation into their operation. This is where some companies may perhaps struggle as they’re stuck in doing things the traditional way and are not as prepared for the changing landscape; any government initiative that can assist in this transformation would be beneficial. No doubt our manpower is better qualified academically and technically today but efforts and initiatives must continue to ensure it remains productive and future-ready.

Sujith Sivaram
Managing Director
ESCO Pte Ltd

Two important long-term priorities would be

a) Enabling population growth by education and motivation. The social responsibility of marrying, having and raising children should be taught and drilled into young Singaporeans. Those who choose not to should have to pay a higher price to remain in this society be it in terms of higher tax rates or higher contributions to their long-terms savings.

b) Enabling long-term learning and skills upgrading, by making it mandatory for Singaporeans to upgrade their skills every 10 years until their retirement. Aiding employers to promote skills upgrading by allowing employees paid leave, allowing funding of these learning initiatives from long- term savings, etc, are some measures that could boost lifelong learning.

Andrew Tan
Managing Director, Singapore

With global uncertainties and a tepid economic outlook, we are looking forward to seeing how the Singapore government will continue to help businesses, especially SMEs, in Budget 2020.

Labour shortage remains an issue in this manpower-lean economy. Instead of tapping foreign labour, it will be ideal for the Budget to address how businesses can leverage pro-business policies and strengthen digital capabilities to achieve operational efficiency and stay sustainable.

To promote long-term business continuity planning, even before any unanticipated eventualities like the novel coronavirus outbreak, the Budget can also include initiatives such as incentivising companies who adopt flexible working mechanism or digital investments subsidy which enables business continuity. With soft consumer sentiments expected, businesses will also need greater support to cope with rising business costs.

Aaron Tan
CEO and Founder

The economic impact of the ongoing novel Coronovirus has shown how vulnerable our economies are today. Being cognizant of this, the Budget should address both short- and long-term concerns of businesses as they grapple with an increasingly uncertain business environment. There needs to be continued investment in companies and technology that allows Singapore to grow beyond just being a strategic hub or a good spot for talent. As a country we should support local efforts to address important daily issues such as traffic management, energy sustainability and financial empowerment. Introducing policies and grants that support faster-scale and regionalisation of Singapore companies is crucial to creating stronger and sustainable local company successes.

Leonard Cheong
Managing Director
AdNovum Singapore Pte Ltd

Singapore’s Budget needs to prepare the nation, people and businesses to innovate, scale up, internationalise and adapt quickly to future challenges and an ever-changing economic landscape. The Budget should address:

(1) Upskilling of elderly workers and women with digital skills coupled with a flexible work programme that will fit the needs of the digital economy – to encourage re-entry back to the workforce and ease the current resource constraints

(2) Deepening of businesses’ enterprise capabilities and facilitating them to become a key ecosystem enabler in ASEAN, which will enhance Singapore’s status as a business hub

(3) Increased focus by the government to maintain a resilient environment and infrastructure for the nation, people and businesses.

Kelvin Chen
CEO & Co-Founder
Kent Ridge Health

Healthcare spending will continue to rise as the population ages, and the government will strive to ensure continued access to quality and affordable healthcare. At the same time, any increase must be sustainable, with an eye on costs, which are ultimately borne by all Singaporeans.

About 70-80% of Singaporeans obtain their medical care within the public health system, yet the polyclinics and institutions are still overcrowded, and patients have to queue or are assigned an appointment date a couple of months later when they might need immediate treatment. There are some private clinics that might be less crowded. It would be great if the current system of decanting patients will be able to automatically assign patients to those clinics. This could be a win-win for both public and private practices as the patients would not have to wait and the private clinics which have less traffic would be able to help with these subsidised patients.

At KRH, through AI technology, myEUDA app is able to assign patients to our partner clinics with real traffic flow minimising wait time. It would be great if the government works more with private healthcare companies to leverage on technology to deliver better care for our patients

Liz Kim
General Manager
Philip Morris, Singapore

The 2020 Budget should continue to encourage businesses, big and small, to innovate and transform their operating models by embracing new technology.

With transformation comes risk and uncertainty, but also the power to gain efficiencies and better outcomes for Singapore. The key to success will be collaboration, and trust, between businesses, policy makers and society at large to ensure regulation keeps pace with innovation and societal demand.

Dora Hoan
Best World International Ltd

Besides providing support measures for sectors hard-hit by the 2019-nCov coronavirus outbreak, Singapore’s 2020 Budget may focus on preparing the economy to thrive in a rapidly changing global environment and to meet longer-term domestic challenges, in particular, economic transformation. Allocations for defence, infrastructure, education, and healthcare take priority.

In order to enhance the connectivity of our country as a global node, it is critical to improve the capabilities of infrastructure facilities, such as 5G networks, MRT lines, airports, seaports. Infrastructure development allows agility to tackle innovation challenges. Meanwhile, digital defence is a new aspect that also needs to be strengthened, to ensure a secure environment to safeguard our critical interests. The education, skills upgrading, and healthcare of Singapore residents have always been a continuing focus, to build a highly-skilled, digital-ready and diverse workforce to embrace the age of digital transformation.

David Leong
Managing Director
PeopleWorldwide Consulting Pte Ltd

This Budget is significant because it probably defines the collective decisions of the 4G leadership and the future that it envisages for Singapore. While the Budget will set aside provisions for interim help for businesses, it also has to prime the economy for future growth. Singapore’s economy has to grow on the back of intense regional and global competition while at the same time dealing with stymied manpower growth. A Transformational Budget will be good to set the tone and thrust of the government’s focus in helping businesses shift from manpower-dependent production and service delivery to one enabled by technology, robots and artificial intelligence.

A reconfiguration for service and production deliveries will let Singapore plug into the global economy by becoming a central marketplace or hub with manpower-light long-term strategies.

Zaheer K Merchant
Regional Director (Singapore & Europe)
QI Group of Companies

Our Budget typically attempts to address various needs and priorities, often as equitably as possible. In current swirling times however, I am of the view the Budget needs to address accelerated economic growth, provide businesses with specific directions, evaluate disparities and ensure a ”one nation” inclusivity. This means that we do need specific tax rebates for businesses to grow, a hold on any GST increase, and if we need to extend tax holidays to ensure employment and manufacturing attractiveness, then this must be provided for. My critical point is inclusivity however – as much as possible, no one should be left behind. We have typified a neat capitalist economy. Perhaps with difficult times comes the need for more social policies (though they needn’t be termed as such). But households need help, as do the needy, elderly, unemployed or under-employed. This can be in various forms of subsidies or outright grants even if subject to some form of means test. But no one should be left behind.

Henry Tan
Group CEO
Nexia TS Group

As Singapore face the immediate challenges, there are also longer-term concerns that will impact Singapore’s future. Firstly, keeping Singapore relevant in a world of technology changes by staying on top of the developments and making Singapore an ideal place for innovation. Secondly, keeping the cost of doing business in Singapore in pace with economic growth and not ahead of it by helping with wage credits. Thirdly, demonstrating Singapore’s relevance in a highly connected world beyond being a major port or air travel hub. This entails demonstrating the value of the talent and cultural knowledge needed to navigate between the West and the East through continuous development of Singapore as a major education hub and think tank.

Annie Yap
AYP HR Group

There should be a greater emphasis and bigger budget to help Singapore companies globalise. The Enterprise Development grant introduced in Budget 2018 was a great move to help firms internationalise and build capabilities, but the set-up effort is taxing. Singapore’s 2020 Budget could look into providing grants or a one-time voucher for physical expenses like purchasing or renting office space and equipment in foreign countries. A list of trusted local organisations’ contact details could also be shared so as to help Singapore firms get speedy assistance. Alternatively, the advantages and benefits of expanding business in particular foreign countries should be promoted widely among Singapore firms. I believe that, with more help in paving the way to enter foreign markets, more SMEs will work towards the goal of globalisation.

Teong Eng Guan
Vice President, ASEAN
Palo Alto Networks

Singapore’s resilience in weathering the challenges that lie ahead will largely be determined by the government’s continued investments in strong cyber defences to guard against ever-evolving cyber threats. Afterall, the true impact of a cyber attack in an era of IoT cannot be overestimated.

However this is a shared responsibility, and future Budgets will need to ensure that everyone is amply supported with the necessary education, awareness and resources to protect the digital infrastructure powering our open and connected economy.

Recent reports of hackers exploiting coronavirus virus fears to spread malware is a prime example of how cyber criminals will not hesitate to take advantage of every opportunity to cause damage, further underscoring the need for cybersecurity to be regarded as an important national priority.

Matthew Bennett
VP and MD, Asia Pacific & Japan
VMware Carbon Black

Increasing geopolitical tension has amplified the risk of state-sponsored cyberattacks that target critical infrastructures and compromise national security. Also, cloud technology has created opportunities for governments to build robust cybersecurity programmes comprising prevention, detection, response and prediction. However, deploying new Internet-connected services without proper security will increase attack surfaces.

The Singapore government may want to invest in bolstering cybersecurity and cultivating expertise in this area. The Budget can also be allocated to encouraging public-private sector collaboration to address cybersecurity challenges that no doubt will intensify in the long run. We all face a common adversary in cyber attackers and need to harness a united front to overcome vulnerabilities.

Ong Pang Thye
Managing Partner
KPMG in Singapore

As smarter technology becomes more pervasive in our everyday lives, along with the compounding effects of natural crises, there is a fundamental need for enterprises to transform, particularly in the areas of digital and sustainability.

Such a need presents a timely opportunity for Singapore to establish herself as the Transformation Capital of Asia for the future, and when we further master and export this expertise of transformation as a business, it would ultimately help to increase the tax revenue base and, in turn, lift the income of people.

Chia Ngiang Hong
Real Estate Developers’ Association of Singapore (REDAS)

Prioritising efforts to enable enterprises and workers build deep capabilities to enable the successful transformation of our economy remains crucial. So does preparing and grooming our children early in life through continuous learning to be leaders, innovators and entrepreneurs of the future. In view of prevailing growing anti-globalisation sentiments and our small domestic market, it is imperative that our government, institutions, enterprises and people double-up efforts to build strong partnerships, both within and outside Singapore, and making the region and the world our stage and our market. Climate change is another important longer term issue and this can take the form of enhancing infrastructure and other pre-emptive measures to combat rising sea levels, urban heat and carbon footprint to ensure a more liveable environment. Fostering a caring and inclusive society, strengthening our social fabric and mitigating growing unease over social inequality and divide is also important.

Patrick Lee
Standard Chartered Bank (Singapore) Ltd

Changing demographics, digital disruption, trade protectionism and climate change are longer-term issues that businesses must continue to keep a close watch on. The Budget needs to address these through continued efforts to upskill Singapore’s workforce, accelerate digital transformation and innovation, deepen global trade linkages and create a blueprint for sustainable growth.

Singapore’s continued success will depend on whether it can sustain its role as a catalytic node in the global economy. As digital transformation continues apace, Singapore must seize the opportunity and reinvent itself as a hub for global trade and financial flows. Efforts to promote trade digitalisation and digital banking must be prioritised. They are certainly at the forefront of Standard Chartered’s strategy in Singapore.

We are proud to be part of a global agreement to accelerate the adoption of digital technologies in trade and commerce. We will continue to invest in new capabilities in Singapore, eg we launched an FX e-trading and pricing engine, and help our people stay relevant through our SkillsFuture@sc programme.

READ MORE: A need to tackle long-term transformation, sustainability issues



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