PM: Housing, transport top priorities

SINGAPORE - Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said that the Government's immediate priority is to solve the country's housing and transport issues.

At the same time, Singapore must upgrade its economy through productivity and innovation, he said in a Facebook post on Monday night.

Mr Lee wrote: "Budget 2013 will help our businesses cope with much lower foreign-worker growth over the next few years.

"It also contains schemes to enable every Singaporean to benefit from growth."

Mr Lee's post came hours after Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam delivered the Budget statement in Parliament.

In a separate Facebook post on Monday, Mr Tharman said the Government is transforming the economy so that the country can have quality growth.

This is "growth that all Singaporeans can benefit from, and which will allow a better quality of life", he wrote.

He added: "We are taking further steps towards a more inclusive society - starting with the kids, helping lower-income workers and providing greater economic security for our retirees, including those in the middle-income group."

In the Budget statement, Mr Tharman also announced that to help households cope with the rising cost of living, $1.7 billion of direct assistance will be given out. It includes Goods and Services Tax Vouchers, a Central Provident Fund Medisave top-up for older Singaporeans and personal-income-tax rebates, with more for seniors.

He also said that the Government will further tighten foreign hiring, such as raising foreign- worker levies across the board.

To help companies adjust during this period of restructuring, the Government announced a $5.9-billion Quality Growth Programme.

Parliament will discuss Budget 2013 from March 5 to 15, according to a statement from the Office of the Clerk of Parliament.

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