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Budget 2008 Essay and Video Competitions
 

Extracts from winning entries

Junior Category (13 to 17)
First prize: Wong Yong Sheng / Raffles Institution
Second prize: Benjamin Mak Jia Ming / Raffles Institution
Third prize: Ng Li Hui / Raffles Girls' School
 
Senior Category (18 to 25)
First prize: Joanne Tang / Singapore Management University
Second prize: Kwan Bo Wen / National University of Singapore
Third prize: Ko Zhihong / University College London

 

Junior Category (13 to 17)

First prize winner - Wong Yong Sheng (Raffles Institution)

[On dealing with poverty]

The dandelion is seen by many as a ruthless weed.

The Government's current approach to poverty (the weed) is mainly adding herbicide which kills the weed, but has a limited effective time span. Herbicide acts like a bandage that needs to be repeatedly applied. Although the Government is prudent and calculated when doing so, Singapore cannot be a welfare state, nor can it afford this mentality to develop.

Therefore, I suggest these two government-funded schemes:

1. Utilities & Devices Savings Scheme, where official income statements are issued to employees with a lower income range. These "income certificates" entitle the holder for government-approved subsidies and rebates where household utilities and items apply. To prolong the benefits, this scheme can make energy-saving devices cheaper to defray future electricity bill costs.

2. One-Percent Minimum Medisave contribution scheme, allowing the economically disadvantaged to pay just 1 per cent to Medisave every month, and postpone repayment of the remaining 2 per cent (e.g. withdrawal from bonuses). While medical care is important, one's immediate family financial needs are more vital.

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Second prize winner - Benjamin Mak Jia Ming (Raffles Institution)

[On alternative energy]

In accelerating renewable energy development, I advocate an approach fronted by strengthened incentives and taxes where the government facilitates the shift to an eco-economy, without sacrificing major funding for other critical areas like health and education.

My core extension objectives are to increase the prevalence and use of alternative energy in Singapore society and hence reduce our economic vulnerability to external energy volatility; and to cement Singapore's competitive advantage in a world where environmental obligations are increasingly quantitative.

...

Singapore, having no natural resources, is severely vulnerable to external geopolitical tensions in the Middle East for oil, and even with natural gas, is subject largely to Malaysia and Indonesia’s bidding. It is thus critical for Singapore to significantly increase its energy independence in the coming years to at least build up a sizeable sustainable capacity, similar to our approach to water supplies, so in case of any eventuality, we have a strategic reserve to survive at least temporarily.

...

By implementing alternative energy technologies, we approach current economic challenges with a long-term view of improving our economic and social fundamentals.

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Third prize winner - Ng Li Hui (Raffles Girls' School)

[On building an 'ecocity']

Becoming an 'ecocity' does not merely open up environmental conservation possibilities, it heralds economic possibilities. Singapore is already regarded as technology transfer destination and a base from which solar energy companies can tap Southeast Asia's market potential. There is a marked difference between simply being a provider of solar energy and truly epitomizing the ideal green-energy city. The added edge brought about by the latter will push Singapore ahead in the global solar power market, estimated to be worth between S$15 billion to S$20 billion a year.

Therefore, by moving towards becoming an 'ecocity', Singapore is driving her fiscal policy's conduct principle of pushing the private sector and providing a stable and conducive environment for the energy private sector to thrive. Singapore's fiscal policy is directed primarily at promoting long-term economic growth and by investing in the area of solar energy, we are building a strong foundation for this future economic niche.

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Senior Category (18 to 25)

First prize winner - Joanne Tang (Singapore Management University)

[On technological investment]

The government should invest and promote the use of workflow software (WS) and Business Process Applications (BPA).

WSs enable work to be disaggregated and outsourced to lower cost countries. An easy example would be the Virtual Private Network (VPN)... VPN provides a secure network and can be configured on any computer. Once configured, it enables the computer to receive files from other computers. Thus, a project can be dissected into various parts, worked on by different people across continents, before being pieced together to form a final project. Productivity is enhanced as the entire project is worked on by different teams around the clock.

Just as WS enables outsourcing, it can enable “home sourcing” as well. Using WS, individuals can work from home, thus achieving greater work-life balance.

BPAs are web-based applications. For a small fee, businesses can store their information with their service providers and run the company from there. Using BPAs help trim costs as business data are stored online, thus eliminating the need for office rental and administrative staff for small companies.

BPAs and WSs show that cost of businesses need not always entail rental costs. This is certainly good news for land-scarce Singapore. Our growth need no longer be constrained by limited land.

...

Thus WS and BPAs not only increase our competitiveness by shaving costs, it provides potential growth as well.

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Second prize winner - Kwan Bo Wen (National University of Singapore)

[On creating an 'Entropolis']

I propose that the government prepares a one-stop centre that facilitates discussion of entrepreneurial ideas. This centre would bring together people with an interest in finding out more about entrepreneurship. It would feature inspirational seminars delivered by successful entrepreneurs... This new forum should ideally cater to a wide base of people, designed to inspire potential entrepreneurs into action... It should also host workshops that would impart the essential entrepreneurial skills such as basic financial accounting, business plan writing, innovative thinking, basic logistics and supply chain management, basic human resource management and basic business law... I am proposing that the government centralise existing entrepreneurial support into one single integrated and comprehensive framework.

...

[On the issue of budget, I would propose] that we pool the resources that are already in use for running SPRING Singapore, IE Singapore, HOTSpots and various other entrepreneurial support platforms... Breeding entrepreneurs is part of globalisation, which is in turn part of sustaining our economic vibrancy and standard of living. Even if it is not the topmost concern in the budget, it should rank as the first few.

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Third prize winner - Ko Zhihong (University College London)

[On setting up a post-secondary education account]

I now propose an alternative use of the $400 million earmarked for the Post-Secondary Education Account (PSEA). Instead of disbursing handouts to all youths, consider using that money to set up a public institution that disburses loans for students in private post-secondary education. Such an institution would lend money only to means-tested individuals who are unable to pay for their tuition fees and/or living expenses, and only to students studying in reputable private institutions with a high standard of teaching. Funds will go only to those who need it most and ensure, as far as possible, that the money is financing a quality education.

In handing an individual a loan rather than a handout, that person is less likely to over-invest in tertiary education, as he knows he is liable to pay it back eventually. An individual who is deciding on whether to take up a study loan will be aware that investing in a course which he will likely fail to pass is risky, and failure would mean he would be financially worse off than before, whereas the individual who is able to pay for that course using a handout will be more willing to take that risk, in order to utilise the full value of the handout.

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