This post was written in collaboration with Ministry of Finance (MOF). While we are financially compensated by them, we nonetheless strive to maintain our editorial integrity and review products with the same objective lens. We are committed to providing the best recommendations and advice in order for you to make personal financial decisions with confidence. You can view our Editorial Guidelines here.
Singapore is changing swiftly — yes, even as you’re reading this article. There are forces at play that are reshaping the global environment, with widespread economic disruption, rapid technological advances, and shifting demographic patterns.
Of course, with great developments come new challenges; and to tackle them, we need to have a clear action plan.
Just imagine, back in 2010, Singapore had 7 working adults supporting 1 elderly person, but today this figure is 4.5. By 2030, the ratio would shift to 2:1. The signs are clear: Coupled with a falling birth rate, Singapore’s population is rapidly ageing.
Meanwhile, while technology brings us convenience (think food delivery services and cashless payments), it can also breed digital threats. Remember the frequent news reports on the latest cyber hacking scams and incidents?
You might also recall what Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat said in his Budget 2019 speech: “The networked nature of our society has enhanced connectivity. But this can be exploited to disrupt and divide society, through cyber attacks, the spread of falsehoods or other means.”
On a national level, Singapore has moved in recent years to address these broad shifts so that citizens remain safe, secure, and well-provided for.
According to the Ministry of Finance, three areas are receiving significant new investments: Healthcare for the elderly, early childhood education, as well as stepped up security for all.
Let’s look at each area in more detail.
1. Healthcare and aged care
We are a greying population, that’s for sure. With people living longer and healthcare needs rising, more support is needed for the elderly and their family members.
In February, the government announced that it would pump in $5.1 billion for the new Long-Term Care Support Fund. This means more subsidies for those who need such forms of care. CareShield Life, an enhancement of the ElderShield scheme, will provide higher payouts of at least $600 per month for those who become severely disabled.
For Singaporeans in the lower-income bracket who are severely disabled and need additional financial support (but may not be eligible for CareShield Life or have insufficient funds in their Medisave accounts), they can tap on ElderFund, which will be launched in 2020.
Another initiative, the Merdeka Generation Package (MGP), was also announced in this year’s Budget, with a slate of benefits and subsidies for seniors. Close to 500,000 eligible Singaporean seniors will receive a one-off $100 Passion Silver card top-up, they will also get annual MediSave top-ups of $200 from 2019 to 2023, additional subsidies for outpatient care, additional MediShield Life premium subsidies, and an additional participation incentive of $1,500 for joining CareShield Life from 2021. Though the MGP doesn’t apply to me, but it definitely put my parents and in-laws in a good mood!
2. More affordable preschools for young families
As parents, we want to give our children a good headstart, but preschool fees can cost a pretty penny — ranging from $700 to more than $2,000 a month.
At this year’s National Day Rally, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced that Singapore’s annual spending of about $1 billion on early childhood education would “more than double” over the next few years, in a bid to make preschools more affordable.
Currently, just over half the number of preschool places are government-supported. There are plans to increase this figure to 80% over time.
More middle-income families (that’s most of us!) also stand to benefit as the income ceiling for additional means-testing subsidies will be raised from $7,500 monthly household income to $12,000. This means 30,000 more families will qualify from next year.
Currently, families are only eligible for a $300 basic childcare subsidy and up to $440 in additional childcare subsidies, which are means-tested. Increasing the household income means that more middle-income families could stand to pay lesser for preschool fees.
Money also goes towards upgrading preschools and opening new ones to increase capacity. Teachers benefit as well, as the National Institute of Early Childhood Development, which admitted its first batch of teacher trainees this year, provides better training and career progression.
3. Security measures such as cybersecurity and counterterrorism efforts
It is easy to forget that we live under the constant threat of terrorism and cybersecurity risks, given the peace and security Singapore has enjoyed.
Just a few months ago, international destinations familiar to Singapore became terrorist targets. In August, Bangkok was hit by bomb blasts during a regional summit. In October, two men were arrested in Bali on suspicion of plotting an attack.
The Singapore Terrorism Threat Assessment Report 2019 indicates that our risk of being a terrorism target remains high.
On the cybersecurity front, the Singapore Cyber Landscape 2018 report observes that though the number of common cyber threats detected here decreased last year, Singapore continues to be the target of cyber attacks by advanced threat actors.
How are we working to counter these threats? Well,, Singapore has been investing more in domestic security, including planned exercises to enhance emergency preparedness and the transformation of the Home Team under the SGSecure movement. Latest innovations include a trial for automated clearance for car passengers at the checkpoint, and deploying drones for operations such as sea surveillance and fires.
The Cyber Security Agency of Singapore has also been partnering industry and academia, and rolling out grants, programmes and platforms to boost cybersecurity here.
Investing to build a better Singapore
These three key areas aside, necessary investments have been allocated to infrastructure, such as the rejuvenation of the heartlands, so that we have better amenities and more vibrant public spaces.
And now, with the Asia-Pacific region continuing to grow, not only do local firms need help building their capabilities and going global, workers can also upskill themselves. Singaporeans have access to programmes under SkillsFuture for lifelong learning and skills training, while local firms can grow and expand overseas through schemes like the Scale-up SG programme and the streamlined Enterprise Financing Scheme.
In the long run, the critical areas that Singapore is investing in — taking care of our elderly, giving our children a good start in life and keeping us safe and secure — not only benefit us, but also help to assure a sustainable and stable future for the country.
How do these initiatives help you and what other areas do you think Singapore should be investing in? Let us know in the comments below!