SkillsFuture to be key topic at Budget Debate

SkillsFuture to be key topic at Budget Debate

The debate on the Budget statement starts in Parliament today, and a key topic will be the SkillsFuture programme that helps Singaporeans keep developing skills to advance their careers. This, in turn, will let Singapore keep its competitive edge.

About 60 MPs are expected to speak in the first three days, and Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam will address their comments and concerns in a wrap-up speech on Thursday.

Parliament will then move on to what is called the Committee of Supply debate, during which MPs scrutinise the spending plans of each of the 15 ministries and the Prime Minister's Office. This debate will take place daily, till Friday next week.

Mr Liang Eng Hwa (Holland-Bukit Timah GRC) is scheduled, as chairman of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Finance as well as Trade and Industry, to get the debate going.

He told The Straits Times yesterday: "SkillsFuture is something many people are excited about, but we have to look at how to make this more meaningful than just people going for courses.

"We have to motivate them as well, let them see how people can continue to upgrade themselves."

This year's Budget offers benefits for middle-income Singaporeans, support for low-income seniors, and incentives to encourage companies to innovate, among other things.

A key slice of the Budget pie is the SkillsFuture Credit account. Starting next year, more than two million people aged 25 and older will initially receive $500 in the account to spend on courses to develop their work skills.

Several MPs, including Ms Denise Phua (Moulmein-Kallang GRC,) say they have concerns about its implementation.

Said Ms Phua: "Deepening skills and learning for life are absolutely essential in an age where knowledge shelf lives are short... But it is a big training investment and runs the risk of low impact if not properly designed and delivered."

Mr Ang Hin Kee (Ang Mo Kio GRC) sees the account benefiting freelancers and the self-employed, who do not have employers to fund their training.

But they still face other obstacles, he said.

Many lack job security and have little Central Provident Fund savings.

"This growing pool of people is sometimes not included in government policies aimed at workers. We can't forget about them," he said.

Get all the updates from Budget 2015 here.

This article was first published on March 3, 2015.
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