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25.2.10 Singaporeans support the Budget Statement to raise productivity but there's one topic creating a buzz online.

The country's declining birth rate was a top concern during a webchat with Community Development Minister Vivian Balakrishnan.

This is part of the government's feedback channel, REACH's move to find out what people think of this year's Budget initiatives.

Despite the government's slew of measures including longer maternity leave and cash incentives, the Total Fertility Rate (TFR) plummeted from 1.6 in 2000 to 1.23 last year, a far cry from the 2.1 needed for the population to replace itself.

In fact, the ministry's target this year is to raise the TFR from 1.23 to 1.29.

During the webchat, it was clear that some felt Singaporeans have to take it upon themselves to set up families. Others feel the government should provide more incentives.

Dr Balakrishnan said: "A major factor for that fall was that the economy went into a tailspin last year. So we shouldn't over-react to that. We've just enhanced the package a year ago, so I'd rather wait to see how things pan out in this year, with the economic recovery. And then later on if need be, we'd consider making enhancements." issue raised during the webchat was that there were some who felt that the middle-income households were left out.

Dr Balakrishnan said: "The overall restructuring of our economy will change the tenor of our society and ultimately change productive capacity of Singaporeans."Unfortunately these are long-term things and you won't see instant results. But if we can sustain this course, the overall impact on our society in the next five to 10 years, will actually be very major."


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