On Tuesday, 14 February 2023, Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Lawrence Wong delivered budget statement 2023 entitled “Moving Forward in a New Era”.
The Disabled People’s Association (DPA) Singapore welcomes many of the goals and provisions in Budget 2023 and would like to put forth a few initial recommendations on how the various provisions in Budget 2023 may be optimised to address the realities and concerns of persons with disabilities in Singapore.
In his speech, DPM and Finance Minister Wong noted that the decisions of Budget 2023 were centred on the goals of growing the economy, equipping workers, strengthening the social compact, and building a more resilient nation
In regards to growing the economy and equipping workers, there will be multiple investments to support companies in their various research and development (R&D) and innovation ventures, along with a focus on strengthening the SkillsFuture ecosystem. As part of this effort, Singapore will be investing in Job-Skill Integrators – an initiative that will bring together key players to assess skills gaps in various sectors with the goal of improving current skills training modules.
As it currently is, persons with disabilities still face many access barriers in achieving the same outcomes as persons without disabilities within current SkillsFuture programmes because many of the courses through SkillsFuture are still not accessible. There thus needs to be standardisation of accessibility in all SkillsFuture programming, and factors such as identifying access needs in filling skills gaps should also be included in the upcoming Jobs-Skills Integrators initiative.
Additionally, it was announced that the Enabling Employment Credit will be expanded in Budget 2023 to cover a larger proportion of wages and over a longer duration of time for persons with disabilities who have been unemployed for at least 6 months. DPA acknowledges the investment in this expansion, and also appreciates the emphasis in the announcement that such financial incentives are “just one way to support” persons with disabilities. As we have outlined previously, there are other impactful ways to increase access to employment for persons with disabilities – such as investing in improving physical and systemic infrastructures that enhance workplace accessibility and inclusion and address discrimination, and we hope that such other means will also be incorporated in the implementation of Budget 2023.
Regarding strengthening the social compact, DPM and Finance Minister Wong laid out three areas of focus – strengthening families, tackling the related issues of inequality and social mobility, and providing better care for an aging population. DPA welcomes the various measures and provisions outlined in these categories – such as the top-up of the ComCare Endowment Fund and the announcement that the Government will conduct a review to ensure that there are ample options for older persons to receive care in the community and of their choice. While such measures are positive, DPA would like to enquire as to whether there will be enhancements in the budgeting or implementation of various disability-specific support schemes. As we have previously explained, disability-specific support schemes such as the Taxi Subsidy Scheme (TSS) or the Assistive Technology Fund can be improved to meet the day-to-day realities of persons with disabilities in ways that enhances their prospects of social mobility while diminishing inequalities between persons with and without disabilities.
In speaking of building a more resilient nation, DPM and Finance Minister Wong referred to investments in building collective resilience within Singapore in order to bounce back from external shocks and setbacks such as public health emergencies, economic crises, or damage from natural disasters. Specifically, DPM and Finance Minister Wong noted that there is a need to “Put in place structures that will enable us to better harness resources more effectively and strengthen the complementary roles that that the public, private, and people sectors can play during peace time and in crises”.
As we have noted in a recent statement, the various phases of the pandemic response presented many takeaways which led DPA to highlight the need for cross-sector emergency response protocols to be inclusive to persons with disabilities – not only for public health emergencies but for everyday times of disruption. Such cross-sector investments must thus have clearly articulated protocols on how accessibility and disability will be integrated in each stage of planning and implementation.
As mentioned, such points and queries are part of recommendations we at DPA have made previously, and we call on members of Parliament to include and address such concerns of persons with disabilities and others in the debates and implementation of Budget 2023.
In addition to our on-going efforts in collaborating with existing partners, DPA continues to invite any new collaborations with individuals and groups from the public and private sectors towards addressing such outcomes and objectives.