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Budget 2019 focus on education, healthcare, security: Heng Swee Keat

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Another priority will be to help Singaporeans grapple with changes in the global economy

Singapore's needs in education, healthcare, security and defence are growing, and the upcoming Budget will focus on these areas, said Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat.

Mr Heng, who is delivering the Budget statement on Feb 18, said another priority will be to help Singaporeans grapple with significant changes taking place in the global economy and make use of opportunities, especially with technology.

Speaking on the sidelines of a community event in Tampines yesterday, he said: "We have done well in providing healthcare and education. We'll continue to do that - the needs in those areas are growing.

"At the same time, the needs for better security, and better ability to defend ourselves, are also growing."

The Budget will focus on these key areas as well as in transforming Singapore's economy, he said.

While Budget 2019 is Mr Heng's fourth as finance minister, it will be his first since he was named as the ruling People's Action Party's first assistant secretary-general - setting the stage for his anticipated succession as Singapore's next prime minister.

Yesterday, Mr Heng gave a quick overview of some key challenges that Singapore faces.

The Budget's "one simple aim" is to improve the lives of Singaporeans, and "the needs are very large, whether it is building big-scale infrastructure projects, like our MRT lines or the airport, or especially our Housing Board flats, or whether it is taking care of our seniors, and in fact all Singaporeans".

He also highlighted the importance of keeping Singapore's economy vibrant amid global uncertainties and rapid technological changes.

Mr Heng added that Singapore has to be "very watchful about global developments", when asked how the recent rejection of the Brexit deal could affect Singapore.

Last Tuesday, British MPs threw out Prime Minister Theresa May's deal for Britain's departure from the European Union, which is scheduled to take place on March 29.

Mr Heng cited developments such as the new risks building up in the global economy, be it Brexit or the protectionist movement growing around the world.

He added: "People's support for globalisation is weakening because there is a sense that globalisation has left some people behind. And unfortunately, some of the developments are negative, even for their own country, even for people who advocated a particular course of action, they are now regretting it.

"It just shows that when we make economic policies, we have to be very very thoughtful of the long-term implications, and that we cannot avoid doing the difficult things."

Singapore is on the right track by starting the process of restructuring its economy, Mr Heng added.

"It is not easy, a lot of hard work goes into companies transforming themselves, a lot of hard work by workers to learn new skills. But it is the right thing to do, and I hope that we can sustain the momentum."

Budget Quiz is back, ahead of Budget 2019

The Budget Quiz will be launched at 9am today and will run for three weeks until Feb 8.

The quiz, in its ninth year, tests the residents' knowledge of the country's finances.

All Singaporeans and permanent residents are invited to participate, the Ministry of Finance (MOF) said in a statement yesterday. Besides an open category, the quiz also has an inter-school challenge, where secondary schools, junior colleges, the Institute of Technical Education, polytechnics and centralised institutes can participate.

Schools with the highest number of participating students will be awarded trophies.

Among the questions that will be asked include "What is currently the biggest contributor to government revenue?" and "Which sector saw the highest government expenditure in FY2018"?

The ministry said: "MOF seeks to increase public awareness and understanding of the annual budget process and of key national policies, and expose participants to the intricacies of policymaking in a simplified manner."

Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat will deliver this year's Budget Statement on Feb 18.