As Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat prepares to announce Singapore’s budget for 2021 on Feb 16, he confronts a tumultuous world. Hopes may be rising for an end to the pandemic as vaccines are rolled out, but much can still go wrong. In the meantime, the world we know is being upended by all manner of political, economic and financial changes.

This backdrop makes the forthcoming budget highly consequential. At one level, it will be good for us to know the taxation and spending intentions of the government so that we can assess the implications for economic growth. At another level, this budget statement will also give the government the platform to signal broader policy directions and a chance to introduce reforms to tackle the nation’s structural challenges. We may not be in the depth of a crisis as we were the last time DPM Heng presented the budget, but he still has an unenviable task of shaping an overall strategy to meet the profound challenges that Singapore faces.

The context: a complicated world places a heavy burden on policy

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