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Budget wrap-up: Wong says gov’t balances temporary reliefs, structural schemes

State social spending has quadrupled over the last 20 years.

Finance Minister Lawrence Wong stressed the government’s goal of striking a balance in its social support system, allaying concerns about the sustainability of handouts and rebates meant to help Singaporeans cope with the high cost of living.

In his Budget 2024 round-up speech, Wong said the government’s social support system not only focuses on short-term financial relief to low-income groups and the vulnerable but also aims to give them a “leg up” for the long run.

“We are very careful about getting this balance right. We have not changed our ethos of social support – it is not just about giving handouts, but it is about giving people a leg up,” he said.

This was in response to comments from several Members of Parliament who cautioned that the handouts could potentially promote “entitlement, dependency, or undermine individual responsibility and self-reliance.”
Some of the government’s new structural supports, the ComLink+ and the SkillsFuture Level-Up Programme, as well as the upcoming scheme providing temporary financial support for involuntarily laid-off, were designed so as not to erode personal and family responsibility, Wong said.

This year’s budget proposes a $1.9b boost to the Assurance Package featuring a mix of cash, vouchers and rebates for lower- and middle-income households.

READ MORE: Budget 2024: Who are the big winners of SG’s new measures?

In his round-up speech, Wong said the government’s social spending has quadrupled over the past 20 years and around half of the total ministry expenditure in the 2024 budget is allotted for social spending with a significant portion allocated for structural programs, not just temporary reliefs.

The long-term schemes rolled out over the past decade helped lower-income groups to post slightly faster real income growth than middle-income earners, and twice as fast as the top 20%, he said.

“We recognise that we may not always get it right. But we will always improve and keep on doing better. We will continue to evolve and improve our system of social support. We maintain the right incentives, actively enable self-reliance, and make sure we are able to fund these schemes,” he concluded.

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