B. Transforming our Economy through Enterprise and Innovation
Growing Singapore Together
B.1. Let me first speak about the economy.
Progress in Restructuring
B.2. Over the past five years, our economic restructuring journey has focused on raising productivity to achieve quality growth.
a. We tightened the inflow of foreign workers;
b. We invested significantly in broad-based measures such as the Productivity and Innovation Credit (or PIC); and,
c. We introduced the Transition Support Package4 to help firms adjust to economic restructuring and rising business costs.
B.3. Progress has been promising.
a. More firms are engaging in productivity efforts. For instance, a survey has shown that around 9 in 10 of our SMEs embarked on productivity initiatives5 in 2015.
b. The net inflow of foreign workers has slowed significantly from nearly 80,000 in 2011 to less than 23,000 in 20156.
c. With a tighter labour market, we managed to sustain real median income growth for Singaporeans at an average of 2.9%7 per year over 2009 to 2015.
d. Productivity growth has not been as strong as we would like. While productivity has grown by an average of 2.7% per year over 2009 to 20158, most of this increase was due to the cyclical rebound in 2010 and 2011. Productivity growth has remained relatively flat over the past three years9. We must keep working on this.
B.4. In 2015, the economy grew by 2%. The performance across sectors was varied: wholesale and retail trade, and finance and insurance did well, while manufacturing, in particular the marine and offshore segment, declined, as we can see from this chart.
B.5. I am aware that current business conditions are difficult and uncertain. Many of our firms are facing weaker top-line growth, rising manpower costs and tighter financing. Workers are anxious as retrenchment has increased, including among professionals.
B.6. In the coming year, given our economy’s heavy dependence on external demand, the weaknesses in the global economy will pose strong headwinds.
B.7. The pace of global economic recovery is uneven, with the US being the most advanced, while Europe and Japan will only see modest growth aided by monetary stimulus. Closer to home, China is going through a transition towards a more sustainable growth path. It is a complex transition and any short-term setbacks may create volatility in the financial markets.
B.8. We therefore expect externally-oriented sectors such as manufacturing to continue to face subdued demand. The extended downturn in oil and other commodity prices is affecting commodity-related activities, particularly the marine and offshore sector. Weak global demand in electronics will spill over to related sectors such as precision engineering.
B.9. But while overall growth is subdued, our business landscape is varied. There are pockets of growth and resilience. Even within manufacturing, the medtech and chemicals sectors are growing. Exports of services, including tourism, financial services, Information and Communications Technology (or ICT) and consultancy are benefiting from regional demand. Domestic-oriented sectors such as retail, healthcare and education have been, and should remain, stable. Construction, too, will be supported by a large expansion in public infrastructure and housing projects, even as private residential demand has ebbed.
B.10. Within sectors, prospects vary across firms. Some are becoming more competitive and gaining market share, while others are seeking to relocate to cheaper destinations.
B.11. Similarly, prospects in the labour market are mixed. Overall, redundancies increased in 2015 as global demand slowed and restructuring continued. Some of those made redundant took longer to find jobs. At the same time, however, unemployment remained low at 1.9%. While some sectors such as the offshore and marine and manufacturing are retrenching staff, others such as healthcare, education, and ICT are hiring.
B.12. In summary, while we face weaker prospects overall, MTI expects GDP to grow at 1% to 3% for the year, not very different from the 2.0% in 201510. So while conditions are difficult, we should not be overly pessimistic.
B.13. Even as we tackle immediate cyclical weaknesses, we must be alert to major structural changes abroad and at home.
a. Major economies are continuing to restructure, and will alter the global competitive landscape in the process. China is rebalancing towards consumption and services-led growth, and developing innovation-intensive industries. India is building on its strengths in ICT, and seeking to attract manufacturing investments. These ongoing changes are rapidly changing the patterns of trade and specialisation in Asia.
b. Technological changes, especially in robotics, automation, artificial intelligence and ICT, are disrupting business models across all sectors. Some call the coming changes “Industrial Revolution 4.0.”
c. At home, manpower growth is slowing, and our population is ageing. Real wage increases over the past few years have benefited workers and households. But unless productivity improves in tandem, we will be less competitive, and both businesses and workers will be worse off.
B.14. All these changes pose intense challenges for our businesses, which will have to succeed in a more competitive environment while contending with tighter labour constraints. The need to restructure is both urgent and critical.
B.15. While there are challenges, there are also growing opportunities. We are in the centre of the Asian growth story: China, India and ASEAN are expected to grow at 6.3%11 per year over the next five years, accounting for about one-third of global growth. The ASEAN Economic Community, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and China’s One Belt One Road initiative will open up new opportunities.
B.16. We are well placed to benefit from technological changes – our investments in education, R&D and digital infrastructure will enable us to seize new opportunities.
B.17. We also started restructuring early and our firms, including SMEs, are embarking on change. Our people are valued for their integrity, adaptability, and multi-cultural sensitivity. Singapore is a highly-connected, trusted node.
Our Approach Going Forward
B.18. In summary, we face near-term cyclical weaknesses, which affect various sectors in different degrees, as well as medium-term structural challenges. But we are well positioned to manage these challenges.
B.19. Budget 2016 has three key thrusts to address the challenges in our economy:
a. First, to address cyclical weaknesses, we will adopt an expansionary fiscal stance to provide some counter. Taking into account the higher expenditures and additional measures introduced in this Budget, our projection is that this will amount to a positive fiscal impulse of slightly over 1% of GDP. This, together with relief measures targeted at SMEs, will provide support in the near term.
b. Second, as increased spending alone cannot address structural issues, we will target resources towards enabling firms to build deeper capabilities, develop their people, scale up and internationalise. We will launch the Industry Transformation Programme to strengthen enterprises and industry, and to drive growth through innovation. The aim is to enable our firms to emerge stronger to benefit from the broader global recovery when it takes place.
c. Third, we will support our people through change, by enabling them to learn new skills, especially in new, fast growing sectors, and in facilitating employment and job-matching.
B.20. To tackle medium to long-term issues, we have convened the Committee on the Future Economy (or CFE). Though the CFE has just begun work, the inputs have been valuable for the measures in this Budget, and as the deliberations continue, we will update our plans.
Addressing Near-Term Concerns
B.21. Let me speak on the support we are providing to address immediate concerns, while encouraging restructuring.
Continued Support from Transition Support Package and Public Infrastructure Projects
B.22. The first source of support for firms comes from existing measures and public spending, including public infrastructure projects. This year, total spending is expected to be $5.0 billion (7.3%) higher than in FY2015. The increases are mainly in healthcare, education, security and urban development.
B.23. The Transition Support Package that was introduced in FY2013 will also continue to support our firms in raising productivity. In particular, this month, firms will receive a total of $1.9 billion for qualifying wage increases given under the Wage Credit Scheme12, the largest payout to date.
B.24. In addition, public sector demand for construction projects is expected to increase significantly in 2016, helping to mitigate a decline in private sector construction demand. This includes more than $2.5 billion of public sector contracts for smaller projects13, which will benefit smaller construction firms.
Enhancing Corporate Income Tax Rebate
B.25. Second, to help companies, especially SMEs, I will raise the existing Corporate Income Tax (CIT) Rebate, from 30% of tax payable to 50% of tax payable, with a cap of $20,000 rebate each year for YAs 2016 and 2017. The last time we had this 50% rebate was in YA 200114.
B.26. The higher percentage rebate is targeted at SMEs.
B.27. The increased support is expected to cost an additional $180 million over two years, bringing the total support given to companies under the CIT rebate to close to a billion dollars over two years.
Extending Special Employment Credit
B.28. Our third measure to support companies is the Special Employment Credit (or SEC). The SEC is due to expire this year. I will modify and extend the SEC for three years, to the end of 2019, to provide employers with a wage offset for workers aged 55 and above earning up to $4,000 a month15.
B.29. Employers with Singaporean workers aged 65 and above will continue to receive a wage offset of up to 8%. This is in addition to the wage offset of 3% for the re-employment of workers aged 65 and above till the re-employment age is raised in 2017.
B.30. The SEC will be up to 5% for workers aged 60 to 64 and up to 3% for those aged 55 to 59.
B.31. The SEC will cover about 340,000 workers, or about three in four older Singaporean workers. To support this extension, I will top up the SEC Fund by $1.1 billion. (Refer to Annex A-1).
SME Loan Assistance
B.32. The fourth measure will support viable SMEs that may have cash flow concerns or wish to continue growing their business. We will introduce an SME Working Capital Loan scheme, for loans of up to $300,000 per SME. Under this scheme, the government will co-share 50% of the default risk of such loans with participating financial institutions, to encourage lending to our SMEs.
B.33. The SME Working Capital Loan will be available for three years. This could catalyse more than $2 billion of loans over this period. (Refer to Annex A-2.)
Enhancement to Revitalisation of Shops Scheme
B.34. Fifth, we will help our heartland shops to be more vibrant, as these shops give our neighbourhoods a sense of community. MND will enhance the Revitalisation of Shops package, to better support promotional activities and upgrading projects in HDB town centres and neighbourhood centres.
B.35. SPRING will also work with the Federation of Merchants’ Associations and local merchant associations to strengthen their capabilities to support heartland businesses.
B.36. This enhanced initiative is expected to cost about $15 million annually.
Foreign Worker Levy Changes
B.37. Finally, in view of challenging business conditions in the Marine and Process sectors and the reduction in the number of Work Permit holders in these sectors, we will defer levy increases for Work Permit holders in these sectors for one year. Manufacturing Work Permit levies will remain unchanged for another year, as announced at Budget 2015.
B.38. We will proceed with levy increases for Services and Construction Work Permit holders, as well as S Pass holders in every sector, as announced in Budget 2015. This is in view that the foreign workforce has continued to grow in these areas over the past year. Details are in the Annex. (Refer to Annex A-3).
Significant Support to Address Near-Term Concerns
B.39. Taken together, this calibrated set of measures is appropriate to address the near-term concerns of our firms, especially SMEs, while enabling restructuring. Some have asked for a repeat of support measures we saw in 2009. But that was when the economy was already in deep recession, and facing huge uncertainty. For now, while the outlook is soft, MTI expects positive growth in 2016. We must not let pessimism take hold, lest it creates self-fulfilling expectations. The Government will continue to monitor the situation, and stands ready to act if conditions warrant.
Monitoring the Property Market
B.40. Some have asked about the range of measures that we have introduced to stabilise the property market since 2010. These are intended to keep the market stable and sustainable. Based on the price level and current market conditions, our assessment is that it is premature to relax these measures. We will continue to monitor developments in the property market closely.
Industry Transformation Programme
B.41. Even as we provide immediate relief and support amid the current cyclical slowdown, we must press on with economic transformation. The global economic landscape is changing, and our challenges are pressing. We have a narrow window. We must find every opportunity to transform, to emerge stronger in the coming years.
B.42. In Budget 2016, we will launch a new Industry Transformation Programme to take us into the next phase of our development. This builds on our efforts under the Quality Growth Programme, which was introduced in Budget 2013 to achieve inclusive growth driven by innovation and higher productivity.
B.43. The Industry Transformation Programme will help firms and industries to create new value and drive growth in four ways:
a. It will involve integrating our different restructuring efforts. Our efforts to raise productivity, develop our people, and drive research and innovation are working, but we can maximise impact by pulling these together.
b. We will take a more targeted and sector-focused approach to better meet the needs of firms in each sector.
c. We will deepen partnerships between government and the industry, and among industry players to identify challenges, and develop solutions to support transformation.
d. And we will place a stronger emphasis on technology adoption and innovation.
The Food Manufacturing Sector
B.44. The Food Manufacturing sector is a good example of how such an approach can succeed:
a. Individually, our Singapore food companies have put in place many innovations. Some, such as Tan Seng Kee, have used technology to develop a whole range of products which stay fresh for longer. This enabled Tan Seng Kee to be the first company in Singapore to export fresh noodles that can be easily prepared with its special sauce mixes in flavours such as Laksa and Curry Mee. Others, such as Foodgnostic, have transformed their business models to enhance business growth through internationalisation and food exports.
b. As an industry, our food manufacturers built on their innovations and Singapore’s trusted reputation for high quality and safe food to jointly create the “Tasty Singapore” brand. Using this brand, they are internationalising and selling to China, India, the Middle East, and even Africa. They are now expanding through e-commerce, using websites such as Tmall.com.
c. The food industry integrated their efforts. The combined novelty and quality of their individual products allowed them to stand out as a group. The sharing of common facilities gave them economies of scale. And building the Singapore brand together won them global recognition. In turn, their success creates a virtuous cycle of investments.
d. Our food industry has also been investing in their people. These include 280 management associates and interns who they see as future leaders.
e. There have been strong partnerships across firms, as well as between firms and the Singapore Food Manufacturing Association (SFMA), the Food Innovation Resource Centre in Singapore Polytechnic16 and various Government agencies17.
B.45. As a result, what once appeared to be a sunset industry – because of low margins and high labour cost – is now a thriving sector. Value-add per worker has grown considerably from 2010 to 2014.
B.46. The Food Manufacturing sector shows the importance of mindset – as one of the industry’s leaders told me: “There is no such thing as a sunset industry, only sunset thinking!”
B.47. It shows that transformation comes not only from individual firms but the industry as a whole working together. This year, we will set out three key thrusts under the Industry Transformation Programme:
a. First, we will support the transformation of enterprises, to build deep capabilities, deploy technology, develop scale and internationalise.
b. Second, we will support the transformation of industries, to adopt technology and innovate faster, come up with common industry solutions, seek new markets overseas, and deepen industry partnerships.
c. Third, we will drive transformation through innovation.
B.48. Let me start with transforming enterprises.
B.49. Enterprises are the building blocks of our economy. Vibrant enterprises that change and transform with the times create growth and buzz in the economy.
B.50. Take the example of Xin Ming Hua Private Limited. Started as a small machinery and repair shop in 1955, it is now one of the largest distributors of engines and power systems in Asia. It has been active in innovating and building up in-house design and manufacturing capabilities; adopting automation to achieve productivity gains of up to 75% with the help of Republic Polytechnic18; and internationalising and scaling up its operations to serve customers better.
B.51. To support many more firms to transform successfully, we will introduce several measures in this Budget.
Business Grants Portal
B.52. Today, we have a wide range of schemes administered by various government agencies to help enterprises19 of different sizes, across industries.
B.53. To help SMEs access these schemes, we established SME Centres and stepped up our outreach efforts.
B.54. Still, many firms found the range of incentive schemes and agencies confusing. Indeed, it is an alphabet soup, as shown on this slide: it is scheme-centric, not enterprise-centric.
B.55. To be more enterprise-centric, we will launch the Business Grants Portal in the fourth quarter of this year. This portal will be organised along core business needs of capability building, training and international expansion. Firms will not need to go from agency to agency to figure out which schemes apply to them.
B.56. The portal will also pre-populate details that are available in the ACRA database. The Business Grants Portal will start with grants from IE Singapore, SPRING, STB and Design Singapore and progressively include grants from other government agencies.
B.57. We will also continue to review and simplify the various support schemes, to improve access, and to strengthen assistance for enterprises at various stages of growth.
Automation Support Package
B.58. To support companies to automate, drive productivity and scale up, we will offer a new Automation Support Package for an initial period of 3 years.
B.59. Currently, there is no support for the scaling up of automation projects. As these involve significant financial outlays, some companies find it difficult to commit.
B.60. The new Automation Support Package from SPRING will comprise four components:
a. First, we will provide a grant to support the roll-out or scaling up of automation projects. We will fund these projects at up to 50% of project cost, with a maximum grant of $1 million.
b. Second, for qualifying projects, there will be a new 100% Investment Allowance for automation equipment.
c. Third, we will improve SMEs’ access to loans for qualifying projects. To do so, government will enhance our risk-share with participating financial institutions from 50% to 70% for such projects.
d. Fourth, as such large-scale automation projects enable firms to scale and internationalise, IE Singapore will work together with SPRING in relevant cases to help these businesses to access overseas markets.
B.61. This comprehensive package offered by the Automation Support Package will be useful to firms seeking to grow.
B.62. We anticipate that the Automation Support Package will provide support of over $400 million over the next 3 years. Details are in the Annex. (Refer to Annex A-2.)
Financing and Tax Incentives to Support Scale-Ups
B.63. Next, I will expand the SME Mezzanine Growth Fund from the current fund size of $100 million to a total fund size of up to $150 million. We will do so by matching up to $25 million of new private sector investment on a 1:1 basis. This will provide more capital to support our SMEs to scale up and internationalise20. (Refer to Annex A-2).
B.64. To support more mergers and acquisitions (M&As), I will grant the M&A allowance on up to $40 million of the value of the deal, instead of the current cap of $20 million. With the enhancement of the M&A allowance to 25% of the value of the deal as announced in Budget 2015, companies can now enjoy up to $10 million of M&A tax allowances per Year of Assessment.
B.65. To provide upfront certainty to companies for their corporate restructuring, I will extend the non-taxation of companies’ gains on disposal of their equity investments, based on existing scheme parameters, until 31 May 2022. More details on these tax incentives can be found in the Annex. (Refer to Annex A-4.)
Support for Internationalisation
B.66. Our firms, especially SMEs, are eager to seek new markets and new growth opportunities overseas.
B.67. In the coming years, IE Singapore will support more firms in their internationalisation efforts. In 2015, IE supported 34,000 companies in their internationalisation efforts, a 21% increase over 2014. In 2016, IE expects to help around 35,000 to 40,000 companies of all sizes to venture overseas21.
B.68. In addition, I will extend the Double Tax Deduction for Internationalisation scheme, till 31 March 2020. This covers qualifying expenses incurred for activities such as participation in overseas business development and investment study trips.
B.69. I have outlined how we will support individual enterprises to transform. They will find it easier to transform if their entire industry also undertakes transformation. By doing it together, firms achieve scale, drive down cost, incentivise service providers to step forward, and expand mindshare.
B.70. The second thrust of our Industry Transformation Programme is thus to support industry-level transformation.
B.71. For example, robots can handle metal fabrication processes more efficiently, from steel cutting to welding to machine tending. But these may be too expensive or complicated for many SMEs. Recently, a number of solution providers including Lincoln Electric came forward to design and deliver more affordable, modular systems for SMEs. Over 1,000 SMEs could benefit, if this is scaled up across the manufacturing sector.
B.72. Industry-level transformation works best if firms partner one another, or if industry associations lead the effort, because they know their needs best. Government agencies can support by initialising lead demand or through regulatory changes. We need to form close partnerships among firms, industry associations and Government to drive industry-level transformation.
B.73. Let me highlight three specific measures.
National Trade Platform
B.74. First, we will develop a National Trade Platform as the next-generation platform to support firms, particularly in the logistics and trade finance sectors. This will eventually replace our current TradeNet and TradeXchange systems.
B.75. As a one-stop trade information management system, the National Trade Platform will enable electronic data sharing among businesses and government. Firms only have to provide trade information once and authorise its use by logistics providers as well as business partners. The information can also be used for Customs and other trade regulatory approvals. This will be especially helpful for SMEs, to cut costs and streamline processes.
B.76. The National Trade Platform is not just an IT system. We will develop it as an open innovation platform, so that other service providers can develop value-added services and apps in areas such as operations, visibility and trade finance.
B.77. National Trade Platform is expected to cost more than $100 million to develop. It has the potential to bring over $600 million worth of man-hour savings each year for our firms.
Leveraging New Technologies
B.78. A second way to drive industry-level transformation is to develop and deploy new technologies to solve problems that are relevant for the entire industry. Robotics is a case in point.
B.79. Robotics technology can enable us to work more effectively in a tight labour market. It can also create more high value-added jobs.
Illustration of Robotics Applications
B.80. In our hospitals, robotic technology is used in the pharmacy to pick medication accurately and quickly. This frees up time for pharmacy staff to provide advice on medication. Autonomous transporters are used to move supplies efficiently in the hospital. Our hospitals are also trying power-assisted bed transport technologies to reduce the manual effort in moving patients. All these technologies can improve efficiency and transform the healthcare industry.
B.81. Apart from healthcare, robotics and automation technology can be applied widely to transform sectors such as Construction, Manufacturing and Logistics. We announced the National Robotics Programme last year. We will now scale up our efforts, and in particular, work with solution providers to offer packaged solutions to SMEs at a reasonable cost.
B.82. I will make available over $450 million to support the National Robotics Programme over the next three years.
Increasing Outreach through TACs
B.83. The third key way to drive industry-level transformation is through our Trade Associations and Chambers (or TACs). TACs have intimate knowledge of the needs and potential of their specific sectors. They are well-placed to reach out to many firms, especially SMEs.
B.84. We will build on the existing Local Enterprise and Association Development (LEAD) programme to help our TACs strengthen their outreach through the new LEAD-Plus programme. This will provide wider funding support for TACs to attract talent, develop their capabilities, and strengthen their processes and services.
B.85. To forge a closer partnership, and enable public officers to better understand the needs of our firms, we will also second up to 20 public officers to interested TACs as part of the LEAD-Plus programme over the next five years. Various TACs have already expressed interest.
B.86. In addition, TACs can support firms to build capabilities, and lead the development of industry-wide solutions for common challenges. SPRING will partner TACs to drive 30 such projects over the next three years, to reach out to more than 3,000 SMEs.
B.87. We will set aside up to $30 million over the next five years to support TACs in developing their capabilities, with additional funding for industry-wide transformation projects22. I encourage TACs to step forward. Some have already expressed interest and SPRING will announce these soon.
B.88. I just spoke about how we can drive transformation at the industry-level by leveraging platform solutions and new technologies, and increasing industry outreach through TACs. This builds on enterprise-level transformation, and strengthens our economy.
Transforming through Innovation
B.89. Let me now speak about how firms and industry as a whole must transform through innovation.
B.90. Innovation is critical to the Industry Transformation Programme. Many of the successful enterprise and industry-level transformations I described earlier have some elements of innovation in the form of new products or services, new processes, or new business or organisation models.
B.91. Innovation is enabled and enhanced by the use of technology but innovation goes beyond that. It is fundamentally about new ways of doing things to meet the needs of people and industries better.
B.92. Innovation is the engine of value creation and growth. We must make innovation pervasive in our society. This is a long-term endeavour but let me outline some initial steps.
Deepening Innovation Capabilities
B.93. First, we will continue to deepen industry capabilities in innovation and R&D.
B.94. Of the commitment announced for the Research, Innovation and Enterprise (RIE) 2020 Plan, up to $4 billion will be directed to industry-research collaboration. This represents a concerted shift towards innovation and enterprise, to capture the economic and social value of R&D.
Procter and Gamble Singapore Innovation Centre (SgIC)
B.95. Let me give an illustration. Procter and Gamble (P&G) has worked with A*STAR and EDB to set up the Singapore Innovation Centre (SgIC). It is one of P&G’s major innovation centres, focusing on research and product development for its global business units in Home Care, Healthcare, Grooming and Skin Care. The SgIC will be a key open innovation hub to accelerate and facilitate collaborations between P&G and partners in Asia, including Singapore enterprises.
B.96. To support the RIE 2020 effort, I will provide a top-up of $1.5 billion to the National Research Fund this year.
B.97. The ownership of Intellectual Property (or IP) allows companies to realise the value of its efforts. To encourage companies to acquire IP, I will now allow businesses the flexibility to write down the cost of acquiring IP over different periods of 5, 10 or 15 years, instead of the current 5 years only23.
Strengthening Innovation and Enterprise Networks
B.98. A second way to transform through innovation is to promote start-ups, in new and existing industries.
B.99. We have been nurturing our start-up ecosystem, including venture funding and support for accelerators and incubators24. The start-up scene today is more vibrant, with growing funding support from venture and private equity funds.
B.100. To give these efforts a further boost, we will set up a new entity called “SG-Innovate”. SG-Innovate will match budding entrepreneurs with mentors, introduce them to venture capital firms, help them to access talent in research institutes, and open up new markets. SG-Innovate will build on what has been done by the Infocomm Investments Private Limited (IIPL), and work with SPRING and EDB to expand the accelerator programmes to new and emerging sectors such as Smart Energy, Digital Manufacturing, Fintech, Digital Health, and Internet-of-Things.
Jurong Innovation District
B.101. A third way to transform through innovation is create an open and innovative urban environment. We will launch an exciting new development: the Jurong Innovation District. It will be the future of innovation for enterprise, learning and living.
B.102. Fifty years ago, we transformed Jurong from swampland into a thriving hub for the manufacturing industry that powered Singapore’s economic growth. Now, we will make another leap to create the industrial park of the future.
B.103. Our earlier industrial estates were developed for specific industries, focused mostly on production. Today, however, learning, research, innovation and production are closely intertwined.
B.104. The Jurong Innovation District will create an environment to house these different activities within a single, next-generation industrial district. This has the potential to transform how we live, work, play, learn and create.
B.105. Let me show you a video of what the Jurong Innovation District could look like when it is completed:
B.106. JTC is currently constructing Launchpad @ JID, to serve as a space for entrepreneurs, researchers and students to design, prototype, and test-bed their new innovations25.
B.107. JTC has also launched an Open Innovation Call to invite private sector technology owners to test-bed and develop innovative and sustainable infrastructure solutions within the District. In parallel, we will be building Jurong Innovation District progressively, with the first phase targeted for completion around 2022.
B.108. Similarly, we are investing in infrastructure for the future such as Changi Airport Terminal 5 to better connect us to the world, and to test innovative solutions. This year, I will make a further $1 billion top-up to the Changi Airport Development Fund to support this effort.
Moving Forward Decisively
B.109. Let me summarise. We are launching the Industry Transformation Programme to transform our enterprises, transform industries and transform through innovation. These three thrusts will take concerted partnership to realise. I have highlighted a few examples of how enterprises and entire industries can embark on this transformation journey, but these are just a beginning.
B.110. As a government, we must adopt a more integrated approach to support transformation. Our agencies will work more closely together, integrating their different support schemes to take a more targeted approach to developing each industry. We will work closely with enterprises and at the industry-level to develop transformation maps for each sector. These will help us allocate the resources to develop each sector appropriately.
B.111. As a whole I will set aside a total of $4.5 billion26 under the Industry Transformation Programme, to support enterprises and industries, on top of the amounts for R&D and National Productivity Fund. This includes the next tranche of increased funding to SPRING, IE Singapore and EDB to support economic development, as well as new resources for measures announced in this Budget. These resources will support the sectors under the Industry Transformation Programme, as well as to cater for the growth of new industries over the next five years. The actual spending will depend on the take-up rates of the various schemes.
B.112. For example, we will make available over $300 million to the Food Manufacturing sector over the next five years. This includes support to firms and TACs, as well as initiatives such as specialised industrial infrastructure.
B.113. We will take this more integrated and more targeted approach, in partnership with industry and unions, across more than 20 sectors, covering 80% of our GDP. The work with sectors such as precision engineering and logistics is at a more advanced stage. We will systemically develop transformation maps, sector-by-sector.
B.114. These maps will be ‘live’ documents that we have to adjust as we navigate our way. We may not have all the answers today, but we must work together – our people, firms, unions and government agencies – in a spirit of partnership, and to keep experimenting and trying, in the spirit of enterprise and innovation.
Shifting from Broad-Based Support
B.115. As we move towards more targeted measures under the Industry Transformation Programme, I will continue the tapering of broad-based measures. PIC currently has two components: cash payout, and tax deductions. In line with our move towards more targeted measures, I will lower the cash payout rate under PIC from the current 60% to 40% for expenditures incurred on or after 1 August 2016. The 400% tax deductions under the scheme remain unchanged. The PIC scheme which has been extended for YA 2016 to YA 2018 will expire thereafter.
B.116. Even with the tapering of these broad-based measures, we will continue to provide significant support for firms to restructure in the coming years.
Other Tax Incentives
B.117. In addition to the Industry Transformation Programme, I will also extend and strengthen tax incentives to encourage higher industrial land productivity, and to enhance activities in the areas of finance and treasury, global trading and maritime activities. The details of these four changes are in the Annex. (Refer to Annex A-4.)
B.118. This Budget sets the direction, taking into account feedback from businesses during the initial phase of the work of the Committee on the Future Economy. As the CFE deliberates and consults more widely, we will adjust, but we must start to move in the new direction early.
Supporting Our People through Change
B.119. Let me now go on to speak about how we will support our people to overcome challenges and seize opportunities.
B.120. As firms face weaknesses in cyclical demand and structural challenges, our people too will be directly affected. Some Singaporeans have been retrenched, while others are anxious about their future. Even where new jobs are being created, they wonder if they can keep up.
B.121. Indeed, as economic cycles shorten and changes occur faster, the pressure on our people to adapt will rise. People all over the world are facing this. I understand Singaporeans’ anxieties and concerns and we must give every support to our people.
B.122. One major way is for our firms to restructure, so that our workers have better prospects. This chart shows that across selected industries27, firms with higher productivity tend to pay higher wages.
B.123. It is important for our firms to raise productivity, or else our workers would remain in low value-added jobs with weak prospects. We must aim for a virtuous cycle of higher skills, higher productivity and higher wages. The Industry Transformation Programme I outlined earlier will be a major effort to achieve this.
B.124. Even in new sectors that are growing, such as ICT, new skills are constantly needed as technologies change rapidly. Today, with the exponential growth of social and mobile offerings by businesses, employers are looking for software engineers with skills in User Interface and Design, Android/iOS development, Application Programming Interfaces on top of the commonly used programming languages like Python, C++ and Java.
B.125. In short, like firms, our people too are facing cyclical and structural changes. I appreciate that it is not easy for those who are retrenched to learn new skills and find new jobs. But if we remain adaptable, learn, unlearn and relearn quickly, we can stay relevant and seek new careers.
B.126. With the robust attitude of Singaporeans towards changes, and our willingness to learn, we are better placed than many others elsewhere to cope with change. We must retain our confidence.
a. Our people are increasingly better educated, and we are investing significantly in life-long learning and skills development under SkillsFuture.
b. Our polytechnics and universities have responded to the changing job market. For instance, our polytechnics now offer new courses such as cybersecurity and digital forensics. SIT also now trains food technologists 28.
B.127. Dealing with change will be a long-term endeavour, and for this Budget, the government will, together with employers and unions, support our people in three ways.
a. First, through SkillsFuture, we will support our people to keep learning new skills;
b. Second, we will help those who have been laid off, to find new work and build a new career;
c. Third, we will pilot new approaches to job matching and training, to enable more people to seize new opportunities in growth sectors.
Investing in SkillsFuture
B.128. SkillsFuture is our long-term game plan. Since we launched SkillsFuture in November 2014, we have put in place many initiatives. These will enable our people to identify and pursue their interests at every stage of life, and to broaden and deepen their skills with better education and training.
B.129. For example, we have announced SkillsFuture Earn and Learn Programmes in 12 sectors. Since January, Singaporeans have also started using the SkillsFuture Credit to learn new skills.
B.130. The SkillsFuture Study Awards, which support individuals to develop specialist skills, is taking off nicely. Since October last year, the response has been good and we have rolled out the study awards covering 12 areas of specialisation.
Ms Yap Chui Hoon
B.131. Take for example Ms Yap Chui Hoon, who will be using the SkillsFuture Study Award to deepen her skills as a social worker. She has been a lifelong learner. After graduating with an ITE certificate, she worked for more than ten years. She learnt on the job with the help of multiple part-time courses, including diplomas in social service and disability studies. I am happy to say that she is now embarking on a degree programme in social work to better support her clients with special needs at the APSN Centre for Adults.
B.132. We are off to a good start, and must continue to expand and deepen SkillsFuture.
Helping Our People to Adjust
Adapt and Grow Initiative
B.133. To support our people amidst softening economic conditions and ongoing restructuring, MOM will enhance employment support through the “Adapt and Grow” initiative. This will help our people adapt to changing job demands and grow their skills.
a. For workers who may face greater difficulty in finding jobs, we will expand our wage support schemes to encourage firms to hire them. This will benefit more workers who may be affected by retrenchments or business restructuring.
b. For mid-career jobseekers including retrenched professionals, we will step up professional conversion programmes. New programmes will be launched in sectors such as Design, and ICT. We will also enhance efforts to help match them in jobs with SMEs.
B.134. We expect to more than double the current outreach for PMETs29 from 2,000 to over 4,000. MOM will commit an additional $35 million a year from the Lifelong Learning Endowment Fund and Skills Development Fund to support these initiatives.
Enabling Our People to Seize New Opportunities
B.135. The final thrust of our efforts is to support our people to acquire new skills and match them to new opportunities in growing sectors.
B.136. We will start with the ICT sector. The demand for ICT professionals is growing because it can enable many new businesses as well as disrupt existing ones. To drive our Smart Nation effort, we will need many more of our own experts, in a wide variety of skills – programmers and coders, cybersecurity specialists, user experience designers. The current shortage is driving up pay – the average starting pay of fresh computer engineering graduates increased by over 14% last year to around $4,000. IDA estimates that we will have about 30,000 new positions by 2020.
B.137. To enable our people to learn new ICT skills quickly, we will set up the TechSkills Accelerator, a new skills development and job placement hub for the ICT sector. Major IT employers and associations including SiTF, SCS and ITMA30 will partner IDA in this effort.
B.138. TechSkills Accelerator will pioneer a new way of enabling our people to acquire expertise and skills, so as to engage in the fast growing ICT sector. It will:
a. Identify specific skills in demand and work with specialised training providers to meet these complex demands in start-ups and in sectors such as finance and healthcare.
b. Develop industry-recognised skills standards and certification. This will guide ICT professionals to acquire industry-relevant skills and help employers assess skills proficiency of their employees.
c. Work with anchor employers to commit to hiring and paying based on certified skills proficiency rather than academic qualifications alone. Several employers have agreed to come on board, including the new Government Technology Agency.
B.139. TechSkills Accelerator will pioneer new ways of enabling Singaporeans to be at the frontiers of learning and knowledge, to seize opportunities in new growth areas. We will expand these efforts to more sectors in the coming years.
B.140. As announced at Budget 2015, we estimate that our spending on SkillsFuture and related initiatives will average over $1 billion per year till 2020.
B.141. The Ministers for Communications and Information, Education, Manpower, National Development, and Trade and Industry will elaborate on the various measures that I have spoken about, at the Committee of Supply.
B.142. Through all these measures, Budget 2016 seeks a new way to transform our economy through enterprise and innovation, with stronger partnerships among stakeholders to support our people to manage change.
B.143. Madam Speaker, may I have your permission to distribute materials to the Members in this House?
Last updated on 24 Mar 2016