SINGAPORE: The Singapore government is expected to record an overall surplus of S$3.9bil for financial year 2013, higher than the surplus of S$2.4bil budgeted a year ago.
Some expenditures were lower than expected. For instance, there were unexpected delays in the building of the Downtown Line due to the insolvency of one of the contractors, said Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam, as he delivered the Budget statement in Parliament yesterday.
Revenues were also boosted by higher vehicle quota premium collections.
This was because more replacement Certificates of Entitlement (COEs) were issued, as there were more vehicles being deregistered than expected.
More commercial vehicles were also renewed, contributing to the rise in vehicle quota premium collections.
Stamp duty collections also did not fall as much as expected, Tharman added.
He said that the stronger fiscal surplus in the 2013 financial year was mainly due to “cyclical factors,” adding that they would not last and Singapore should see a tighter budget position in the coming years.
The Singapore economy grew 4.1% last year, up from 1.9% in 2012.
The global outlook this year was “uncertain,” said Tharman, although he said the odds were against a sharp global slowdown .
He said the government would also introduce “targeted enhancements” to help local companies expand into overseas markets.
First, it will allow companies to borrow more money from the Internationalisation Finance Scheme, which provides loans to companies expanding abroad. The maximum loan quantum under the programme will rise from the current S$15mil to S$30mil.
The programme is now expected to disburse up to S$500mil in loans over the next two years for companies pursuing internationalisation.
In addition, the government will enhance the Global Company Partnership Programme. It will raise the support level for pilot and test-bedding projects from 50% to 70%, to help companies to develop new products to break into overseas markets and to establish track records.
The government will also expand the scope of support for staff attachments overseas.
Tharman said about 200 companies should benefit from these measures over the next two years.
On property, Tharman said it was still too early for the government to relax its property cooling measures, given the increase in home prices in the last four years.
The government would continue to monitor the real estate market and adjust its measures when necessary, he added.
He said the government had been concerned about property prices, which have risen strongly in recent years.
The successive rounds of market-cooling measures were working, with both the HDB resale and private residential prices stabilising, Tharman added.
“We are not engineering a hard landing,” he said.
“But neither are we able to eliminate cycles in the property market, with upswings in prices in some years followed by corrections.”
Addressing complaints by business about rising costs including property rents, Tharman noted that companies had faced rising rental expenses in the last few years, especially in industrial space.
But he said that a very large quantity of industrial and shop space was entering the market, and should have a moderating influence on property prices and rents over the next few years. – Straits Times/Asia News Network