DPM Wong will be a steady presence for S’poreans. Budget 2024 shows it.


SINGAPORE WILL remain in steady hands. Deputy Prime Minister (and incoming Prime Minister) Lawrence Wong made that much clear in his speech (Feb 28) to round up the $131.4 billion of spending for Budget 2024.

DPM Wong kicked off his speech with the elephant in the room: How will we get Singaporeans through this rough patch of inflation? 

In his answer, DPM Wong pointed to how the Government tailored the enhanced financial support in the Assurance Package especially for low- and middle-income households.  

He explained how the 50 per cent Corporate Income Tax rebate in the Budget stands as the most generous one extended to date.    

Social support too is a priority for DPM Wong. “In this Budget, half of total Ministry expenditure is committed to social spending,” he said.  

The Government has quadrupled social spending over the last 20 years too, he noted. Putting in place such structures for Singaporeans to access help is hardly what the Opposition mischaracterises as temporary measures — you can count on the PAP Government working together with other Singaporeans to help you.  

Source: Lawrence Wong/ Facebook 

“But ultimately, the best way to deal with inflation is for businesses and wages to grow in real terms. And to achieve that, we need better economic growth,” said DPM Wong. 

So here DPM Wong is staying true to Singapore’s existing strengths in adding value to the world. Some examples of this strategic commitment — new foreign investment attraction toolkits such as the Refundable Investment Credit (RIC) which offsets expenses like setup and local labour costs and an extra $3 billion for the $25 billion Research, Innovation and Enterprise 2025 (RIE2025) plan. 

Staying the course with new findings and uncomfortable realities

Being steady also means staying there when asked difficult questions or faced with new insights — and tackling them head-on so that Singapore benefits.  

Take the changing aspirations of Singaporeans. DPM Wong’s Forward Singapore exercise has found that the 5Cs (cash, condo, country club, credit card and cash) just does not hold that much allure for younger Singaporeans. Rather, finding meaning and fulfillment in life beyond material success matters more.   

“As part of Forward Singapore and as the first step in this Budget, we are doing more to help our fellow Singaporeans realise these shared aspirations by providing more opportunities and diverse pathways for everyone to excel. To develop to their fullest potential and to be the best possible version of themselves,” said DPM Wong.  

Source: Lawrence Wong / Facebook 

His continued support for the national SkillsFuture lifelong learning programme (claim those extra $4,000 in credits when you can!) and extra $100 million for the Our SG Arts Plan bear out this stance. 

Plus, DPM Wong firmly spelt out the uncomfortable reality about attracting foreign investments: multinational companies (MNCs) have bargaining power. 

This reality is unlike what populist economists like Opposition MP Jamus Lim (Sengkang GRC) purport when considering tax schemes like the OECD/G20 Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS). So the Budget’s RIC scheme helps Singapore remain a competitive destination even while governments worldwide also court these MNCs. 

“These moves are absolutely necessary. So that we remain in the race for quality investments and create good jobs for Singaporeans. This is not an academic exercise. This is about the lives and livelihoods of Singaporeans. And we will do whatever is necessary to safeguard this. Especially in a world where competition will only get tougher,” said DPM Wong.  

“So let us not be so naive to think that the putative gains from BEPS are simply materialised in our favour,” he added to the Opposition. 

A challenge to the Opposition 

Despite the stability which this Budget brings, the Opposition will continue to advocate for easy money from the reserves, soft compromises and zero trade-offs if their recent behavior in Parliament is any indication. Their calls for spend-now-worry-later policies will likely continue too. Afterall, it is easy for the Opposition to promise the moon since they do not have the realities and responsibilities of a land to govern. 

But make no mistake, DPM Wong will be there to keep Singapore thriving for Singaporeans today and tomorrow.    

“I invite them to take up the challenge that the Prime Minister issued in this house a few weeks ago. Make drawing more from the reserves an election issue. Let’s go to the people,” said DPM Wong about the Opposition’s populist pandering.  

“The PAP will join issue with you. We will present our case to Singaporeans and ultimately, Singaporeans can decide what is the best fiscal approach to take Singapore forward.”