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Budget Is As Much About Ideals As Pragmatism, Parliament Hears At End Of Marathon Debate
Speaker of the House Tan Chuan Jin delivers his clossing address for the Committee of Supply Debate 2018. Photo: Parliament
March 9th, 2018 | 09:30 AM | 275 views
Wrapping up a marathon debate on the ministries’ new budgets on Thursday (March 8), Leader of the House Grace Fu and Speaker of Parliament Tan Chuan-Jin stressed that the hard-headed process is as much about pursuing the country’s ideals as it is a pragmatic matter of meeting a multitude of goals with limited resources.
The extensive debate, the longest in five years and was allocated some 51 hours and 50 minutes over eight days, spoke to the “breadth and gravity” of the issues facing the country, said Ms Fu, who is the Minister for Culture, Community and Youth.
She added: “To tackle the problems of today and prepare ourselves for tomorrow...We must have that grit and bias for action that makes us an exceptional nation. This would not be the case had we no ideals.”
Mr Tan echoed her views, noting that Singaporeans will need to go the extra mile for one another in order to realise the country’s vision. Unlike the Budget, these cannot be mandated by law, he said.
The Speaker added that the Budget and Committee of Supply debates of the past week were for Singaporeans to discuss how they intend to realise their ideals and aspirations through detailed budgetary plans.
He illustrated this with a quote from former United States Vice-President Joe Biden, whom Member of Parliament Murali Pillai (Bukit Batok) also cited in a recent speech: “Don’t tell me what you value, show me your budget, and I’d tell you what you value.”
Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat delivered this year’s Budget on February 19. Members of Parliament (MPs) began debating the various ministries’ budgets from last Thursday, following a two-day Budget debate.
A total of 530 “cuts”, the second highest in the past five years, were filed by MPs to give them time to speak on each ministry’s plans. The Ministry of Manpower drew the highest number of cuts with 55 MPs rising to ask about its plans. Much time was also spent debating on the budgets of the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth and the Ministry of Trade and Industry, which drew 45 and 41 cuts respectively.
Amid the discussion on the rationale for new policies as well as impending changes like the decision to raise the Goods and Services Tax by two percentage points sometime between 2021 and 2025, Nominated Member of Parliament Kuik Shiao-Yin asked whether “every tilt towards the side of pragmatism is simultaneously a tilt away from the side of our ideals”.
“I do not presume pragmatism to be bad and idealism to be good,” she said in a speech on Feb 28. “But I believe our idealistic young professionals and students who make up both our current and future tax base have the right to question us: when will it ever be the right time to tilt our balance just a little more towards our ideals rather than always towards what’s pragmatic?”
Addressing Ms Kuik’s comments, Ms Fu said on Thursday that pragmatism and idealism are not mutually exclusive.
The minister said she entered politics help build her “ideal Singapore”, one where her children could grow up safely, where they could find meaningful work and opportunities, build a home and raise families, and the space to find fulfilment and give back to society.
The best way to achieve this ideal state, she added, is to equip the next generation with the means to attain their goals.
Through the Budget, the Government plays the role of an enabler, noted Ms Fu. This includes supporting enterprise, providing incentives for life-long learning and fostering an environment of compassion and care, among other things.
Mr Tan noted that this is also where SG Cares – the national movement to build a more caring and inclusive society – can come in and create a better society. This year’s debate saw three ministries, the Ministry of Social and Family Development, Ministry of Health and MCCY deliver a joint address on SG Cares.
Wrapping up the debate on an upbeat note, Mr Tan said: “Our future is tremendously exciting. When we as Singaporeans take the step forward to care for others, we begin to build bonds that bind, and these bonds enable us to go the extra mile for one another.
“Whatever the future throws at us, we know we will fight for our survival and figure a way out. Because there is something larger than us that we are fighting for.”
courtesy of TODAY
by SIAU MING EN
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