It's been a whirlwind year with lots of events that rocked the Singaporean calendar that kept us all on edge of our seats. But alas the end of the fiscal year has arrived everyone should know what that means for Singaporeans: The Budget will be announced and rolled out by our finance minister tomorrow. On the advent of Budget 2013, I have compiled a wish list of what the Budget will do for Singaporeans.
A reduction in military defense spending vs. an increase of spending on safety and civil defense
We have seen over the last year many headlines of Singaporeans who have suffered injuries while in the line of duty in the SAF.
The government, in particular the Ministry of Defense, should consider implementing a budget reduction or freeze in its military defense spending and focus on reviewing and overhauling its safety procedures. There is no point in ramping up military defense spending to protect the nation if we leave ourselves open to danger at home due to neglected blind spots. Accidents such as the one that crippled Jason Chee (link) need to be made a thing of the past.
We also need more first responders who will rush forward to save lives when the nation is hit by a crisis. The Ministry of Home Affairs will need to ramp up recruitment of paramedics and firefighters. Salaries and benefits should be bumped up to give these selfless responders the peace of mind. Our first responders deserve to know that they will be taken care by a grateful nation that does not seem to say thank you enough to their adherence of their sacred duty.
Increased spending on social safety nets and services
An increased spending on providing social services such as day care for children will give young parents, especially mothers, the piece of mind they will need to go back to work. That will help increase our labor participation rate and ease the dependence on foreign workers.
Increased spending on health care will signal to citizens that they can focus on getting better when they fall ill instead of having to worry about paying that hospital bill. Peace of mind can do wonders for productivity, something that our government has been struggling to boost of late.
Transport subsidies for the elderly, disabled and poly students will also go a long way to helping Singaporeans cope with the rising cost of living. We should not be letting the vulnerable slip through the cracks if we can do something about it.
More spending on the arts especially arts education
There is a story that says that when Sir Winston Churchill was asked to cut spending on the arts to focus the war effort during WWII, Churchill responded by asking: "Then what are we fighting for?"
The arts are important. Now more than ever with the looming change in our demographics thanks to mass immigration the Singaporean arts scene needs to be nurtured. The arts are what allows a society to express itself and build its own culture and identity. The arts also allow a society to build up its sense of empathy as they get to explore seeing the world through other people's lenses.
The government's white paper on population has brought the issue of the erosion of the Singaporean identity to the forefront of the national talking point. The timing could not be better to allow the government and society address this concern and even build upon our national identity by giving the arts a higher priority. It is time for the government to look past the idea that the arts gives people dissident ideas and understand that the arts are a force that can be used to foster identity and community. A bump in the National Arts council's budget as well as more grants for aspiring artists and musicians to tap into would be a first step in the right direction.