Singapore’s future challenges and our tug-of-war With globalisation
Commentary | Nicole Foo, Opinion Associate Editor
Like all annual announcements of the Singapore Budget, the recent Budget 2019 has revealed a general trajectory regarding the state’s short- and long-term plans for the future.
This year’s theme of “Building A Strong, United Singapore”, alongside new policies on the domestic front, are obvious indicators of the changing obstacles that globalisation has posed for our country.
Singapore had been heavily preoccupied with more economic facets of globalisation at the turn of the new century. The 1997 Asian Financial Crisis and the onset of economic liberalisation facilitated by digital technologies were some important events that propelled ‘globalisation’ as a buzzword in the early 2000s.
In 2017, PM Lee had cautioned to APEC leaders that embracing globalisation runs the risk of very uneven gains by different stakeholders.
He also mentioned that tailored and proactive approaches by governments are fundamental in ensuring a fair distribution of such benefits within societies and between countries.
Though economic transformation and growth have remained salient issues, policy agendas are also increasingly concerned with maintaining social stability and improving the wellbeing of citizens across all social groups.
This is observed in Budget 2019, which has identified several key shifts domestically and abroad, including the nation-state’s changing demographic patterns and rising scepticism of globalisation in current international politics.
Ensuring an integrated society amidst these challenges appears to be recognised as a heightened necessity for Singapore in the near future.
Also, the new policies presented are reflective of anxieties pertaining to rising globalisation and how best to maintain the nation’s cohesiveness and security in light of this trend.
Concurrently, a common thread through these proposals is their aim at bolstering Singapore’s preparedness to take on the exigencies of today’s fast-globalising world.
For example, social mobility has been addressed against the backdrop of discussions about inequality in the past year. An inter-agency taskforce called Uplifting Pupils in Life and Inspiring Families (Uplift) has been deployed to oversee KidStart, a programme to support the progress of children from disadvantaged families.
This is in addition to a strengthened Workfare Income Supplement scheme with boosted wage support.
Efforts are thus undertaken to ascertain that the needs of the less privileged are catered to as well as to gear different social groups for better opportunities in life.
The Merdeka Generation Package also serves to instill a sense of belonging in citizens by recognising that the older generation is still a crucial demographic of the population.
Though some may no longer be contributing economically, acknowledging their contributions to Singapore’s formative years can be perceived to fortify their inclusion and integration with the rest of society.
Of course, these are just some of the current goals and plans delineated by the Budget. As much as it is favourable to buttress the nation-state as an entity, reaping the benefits from globalisation is important as well.
The Global Ready Talent Programme, which seeks to send young people abroad or locally for internships and job postings, is one direction forward in helping citizens gain experience with different international demands in the workplace.
Significant steps in innovating and internationalising domestic enterprises have been taken, too.
Singapore’s penultimate challenge is to allow for changes to shape it into a liveable, global city and become a world nexus in cultural, political and economic spheres.
At the same time, Singaporeans need to be ready for this dynamism and feel confident about the changing structures and opportunities.
The government will be the foremost actor in gearing the country towards these goals. And each subsequent plan will have to build upon previous ones to effectively navigate our country in global waters.
About the author: Nicole is a Year 2 student majoring in Geography and Political Science at NUS and is on staff with The Convergence as Associate Editor (Opinion). She is currently studying abroad in the UK. Her love for traveling has contributed to her desire to better understand global affairs and politics. Apart from catching up on the latest TV series online, she also enjoys a cup of good coffee during her free time.