Budget 2016 will be 'prudent' as it tries to shore up slowing economy

The government estimates 2016 growth between 1 percent and 3 percent, the lowest average growth rate in the last ten years.

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The government will have to be particularly prudent as it presents the budget 2016 in the backdrop of a sudden swing in global economic fortunes, Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat has said.

While the government focuses on a "slower growth environment" and tries to address the needs of the small and medium businesses, it will also have to be "prudent so we have resources when we need to act later," the minister said.

Singapore's gross domestic product expanded 2 percent in 2015, compared with 3.3 percent a year earlier, recording the weakest growth since the global financial crisis of 2009.

The government has pegged estimated 2016 growth between 1 percent and 3 percent, which would be the lowest average growth rates over the last ten years.

The minister, who will present the budget 2106 on 24 March, said the economy was going trough a bad patch but that it was not in a recession.

"Our forecast remains that we are likely to grow between 1 and 3 per cent, so while we face a slowdown, we are not in a recession, so I don't think that is the central scenario in our view. So we have to continue to focus on what we need to do to manage in this slower growth environment," Heng said.

In Heng's view, the challenges Singapore businesses face are not of the short term and hence the remedies will have to be framed with the long-term objective.

"Our aim is to help companies to navigate through this very difficult period," Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat said.

The measures to be unveiled in this year's budget will be meant for helping companies find medium-term growth opportunities.

"We see very significant changes that are going on around us in the global economy, especially the regional economy. The more ready we are to change, adapt and respond to these very significant shifts around us, I think the better we will be, and we will be in a stronger position," Heng said, according to the Channel News Asia.

Heng said companies should adapt themselves to face the technological changes and undergo a "restructuring journey" as well.

"These are the changes that we cannot avoid and the more ready we are to change, adapt and respond to the very significant shifts around us, the better we will be," the minister said.

"The changes are coming quite rapidly, and there's a need for us to continue to learn new skills, to be able to cope with change - whether it's new skills related to what we're doing today or new skills to allow us to get into a new industry."

This article was first published on March 5, 2016