From the Chair | The Budget Process
15 Feb 2019
Come Budget Day 2019 on 18 February, Minister for Finance Heng Swee Keat will unveil the Budget Statement. We will learn of the Government’s proposed spending and new policies, if any, for the upcoming financial year that begins on 1 April 2019 and ends on 31 March 2020.
With economic growth likely slowing amidst global uncertainties, this will be a timely update on Singapore’s national agenda and key priorities in 2019. In delivering independent Singapore’s first Budget Statement in 1965, Mr Lim Kim San, then-Minister for Finance, noted that we “have never before failed to seize any opportunity for our advancement and given the right direction, we will not let slip a golden opportunity to build ourselves into a great and prosperous nation”. Over 50 years later, I believe this resilience and fortitude in our nation’s DNA still hold true. I therefore look forward to the strategies Minister Heng will outline to keep Singapore a vibrant and thriving global economy.
But what role does Parliament play in this Budget process? Here’s what happens in Parliament following Budget Day. Some days after Minister Heng’s delivery, Members of Parliament (MPs) will debate the Government’s plans set forth in the Budget Statement. As Speaker, I may extend the debate beyond the two days allocated. When this debate concludes, MPs will vote on the Budget Statement, which encompasses the Government’s financial policy.
Parliament then sits as a Committee of Supply (COS) to scrutinise the respective Ministries’ budget (also known as its Estimates) in detail. To chair this Committee, I will leave the Speaker’s Chair to take another seat below the Chair; to signify the start of Committee proceedings.
During the COS debate, MPs will examine each Ministry’s plans. To raise areas of concern over a Ministry’s policies, an MP must first propose a nominal “cut” of $100 to the Ministry’s Estimates. This action gives the MP a peg to query the details of the Government initiatives that will be supported by the projected expenditures. When the Minister has satisfactorily addressed this feedback, the MP may withdraw his “cut”.
As Chairman of the COS, I ensure that all Members of the House keep to their allocated speech times. Where necessary, I will enforce the rules of debate as set out in the Standing Orders (SOs). At the end of the Budget debates, I will address the House to share my observations from the Chair.
Parliament then moves on to pass the Supply Bill, which comprises all the Ministries’ Estimates. When President’s assent is given to the Supply Bill, it becomes law. This Supply Act authorises the sum of money the Government may spend in the financial year.
Through these rigorous parliamentary debates during the Budget session, Parliament plays a significant role in regulating public expenditure and the nation’s finances. In explaining the underlying principles and trade-offs, each Minister clarifies his Ministry’s policies, and engenders conviction for the proposed initiatives. A functioning democracy is upheld by such checks and balances, which keep the elected Government accountable to citizens in setting out a sustainable budget.
The infographic below summarises this Budget process I have just described. Do help spread the knowledge by sharing this infographic with your friends and communities. If you are keen to learn more about all things Budget, do also visit the Budget 2019 website.
While a social media presence is almost de rigueur for organisations today, I believe it is still important for Parliament to maintain our face-to-face touchpoints wherever possible. Nothing beats the human touch and youths remain a key audience to engage. This is why Parliament jointly organises the “My Budget Day Experience” programme with the Ministry of Finance (MOF). Held at Parliament House since 2007, this annual, interactive programme allows students to learn more about the purposes, process and people involved in the making of Singapore’s Budget. They will also catch the Minister for Finance’s delivery of the Budget Statement in person. To date, about 650 students from secondary schools, junior colleges, polytechnics, the Institute of Technical Education (ITE) and madrasahs have joined this programme. This year, students from the local universities will be participating as well. We will be posting the students’ reactions to Budget Day 2019 on Parliament’s social media platforms. So do keep a lookout and yes, share them on your own channels if you wish ;)
As always, do send us any feedback you may have on Parliamentary matters at firstname.lastname@example.org. Your continuing curiosity on all things related to Parliament are important as they will guide what we can do better to serve you, our citizens.