For most of us mere mortals, money matters are important, sensitive and personal matters.
And as mere mortals, our income is finite because our time and energies are finite. The choices we make regarding how we earn, how we budget, how we save and spend are choices we make every day in the face of limitations and trade-offs.
On the surface, these are practical, material and even mundane matters. But ponder more deeply, these choices reveal much more about us than about the outcome of our choices.
Finance Minister Lawrence Wong said in his Budget roundup speech that “the Budget is more than just a design of policy parameters or schemes in monetary terms. It is a reflection of something much deeper – our ethos and our values.” Some pause should be given here to consider the depth of what he means.
As fellow Singaporean citizens bound by a common national destiny, we have to decide how we want to handle money matters that concern all Singaporeans.
Singapore succeeded because we have always strived to maintain a prudent and frugal approach to managing our nation’s wealth and expenditure. At the risk of repeating ad nauseam, this prudence and frugality has enabled us as a country to weather crisis after crisis, as well as to seize and invest in opportunities as and when they arise.
Responsible stewardship involves the necessary trade-offs. No budgetary plan can ever fully satisfy every single stakeholder. But a well thought out and responsible plan will make for a more equal, equitable and fairer outcome for every stakeholder. And for this to happen, the right values and ethos must build the framework.
Minister Wong reminded us that we must always remain an open and egalitarian society, an inclusive society that is without class distinctions and without social hierarchies, and one with a big heart and a generosity of spirit.
He said: “This can only happen if we are able to engage the human spirit and involve every Singaporean. We must strengthen the culture of responsibility for one another, so we all feel a renewed sense of duty towards each other, and not just a right to the benefits of citizenship.
We do not begrudge those who do well. Instead, we celebrate them and we take pride in their achievements. At the same time, for those who have succeeded, there is no need to flaunt one’s wealth or be ostentatious about it. Instead, keep a modest and unassuming approach, and do your part to give back to society, so that wealth can be recycled and invested back into society to expand opportunity for others.”
For now, for future
This view reveals a forward-thinking approach that is also an invitation and encouragement to Singaporeans and future generations to take their best shot at success, but appended with a clear reminder that with success comes responsibility; responsibility not only to give back to society but to conduct oneself with prudence and discretion.
For Singapore to succeed in a sustainable manner, the success must be shared, celebrated and preserved. This points us back to the importance of good stewardship and the significance of the choices we make, as individuals and as a society.
For all the percentage points and mammoth figures that mere mortals like us probably only understand half of it, we can say that the Budget, at its very heart, is a story of sustainability and stewardship that points us to an equitable, inclusive society. Stewardship and sustainability go hand in hand – The 2022 Budget is a clear reflection of this.
This mere mortal agrees.