Budget 2019: About 30% of total expenditure to go into defence, security and diplomacy

Heng noted that terrorism threats against Singapore
“A strong (Singapore Armed Forces) lends weight to our diplomatic efforts and ensures that negotiations with Singapore are taken seriously,” said Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat. (Yahoo News Singapore file photo)

About 30 per cent – or $15.5 billion – of Singapore’s projected expenditure for this financial year will go towards defence, security and diplomacy efforts.

This was announced by Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat on Monday (18 February) during his Budget 2019 speech in Parliament.

“Against an increasingly uncertain geopolitical environment, our commitments to defence and security cannot waver,” said the 57-year-old.

Describing the planned spending as “significant but indispensable”, Heng added that “(we) will invest more if the need arises”.

Spotlight on cybersecurity

Heng also spoke on the need to enhance cybersecurity efforts amid growth in “malicious cyber activities” directed against Singapore.

“The networked nature of our society has enhanced connectivity but this can be exploited to disrupt and divide society through cyberattacks, the spread of falsehoods or other means,” noted Heng.

“In particular, foreign actors will try to influence our domestic affairs and politics. This is not new. But new technologies have made it easier for others to mount attacks and with greater ease and intensity, and with more sophisticated tactics.”

To stay ahead of such threats, Heng announced that the Ministry of Home Affairs will be setting up a Home Team Science And Technology Agency by the end of this year. This new body will focus on developing science and technology to support the Home Team’s operational needs.

Other efforts mentioned in Heng’s speech included the Cyber NSF Scheme, which trains full-time national servicemen to become cyber warriors; the government’s bug bounty programme, through which local and international “white hat” hackers are invited to test the government’s internet-facing systems; and the Cyber Security Agency of Singapore, which was formed in 2015.

Roping in the private sector

The government will also to be looking to work more closely with the private security industry to bolster its national security efforts.

Heng cited the example of how Certis has incorporated big data technology and artificial intelligence to combat security threats.

“MHA will help to transform the private security industry through innovation and technology, to meet growing needs and be an effective partner to the Home Team,” he said.

Terror threat still ‘high’

Noting that the security threats are evolving and becoming increasingly complex, Heng said terrorism threats against Singapore “remain high”.

“We continue to detect individuals in Singapore who have been radicalised by terrorist propaganda,” he said.

Carrying a big stick

On the international front, Heng called diplomacy and deterrence the “twin pillars” for Singapore’s approach to cross-border matters and noted the need to maintain a strong military.

“A strong (Singapore Armed Forces) lends weight to our diplomatic efforts and ensures that negotiations with Singapore are taken seriously.

“Should diplomacy fail we must stand ready to defend ourselves,” he said.

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Highlights from Singapore Budget 2019