Visualizing the 2019 Singapore Budget

The Singapore government just announced the 2019 budget on February 18th 2019.

If you're new to this series, welcome!

Here is where we take a look at Singapore budget data from a long-term data-centric viewpoint.

Rather than looking at specific budget policy announcements, which the media covers better, I prefer to just visualize long-term macro data trends.

This is the sixth year running that I've been doing this. Many of the visualizations were pre-written, so I just add the latest data figures from MOF.

Here's the work done in previous years, if you're interested to compare:

Every year I just add new data, and sometimes I tweak a visualization or animation so that it keeps things fresh!

I believe in data literacy. An informed citizenry makes better decisions and is good for Singapore.

The whole point of this series is to give readers a sense of the long-term trends in the budgets since we have almost two decades worth of collected data.

2019: An election year?

The first thing that stands out is that in 2019 our government is projected to run a deficit. (Click on the overall budget balance to toggle this view).

Typically our government is pretty prudent and we only run surpluses.

If you look at all the years we run a deficit, it is either in an election year (2015) or we were recovering from a recession.

Dot-com bust in 2001, SARS in 2003, and the financial downturn in 2009 are the other times in two decades worth of data that we ran a deficit.

Given the trends, this is another data point that 2019 is probably an election year.

One large component of expenditure is increase in the top-ups to endowment and trust funds, from S$7.3 billion in FY2018 to a projected S$13.6 billion in FY2019.

According to the Business Times, this increase largely stems from two funds: the Merdeka Generation Fund (S$6.1 billion) and the Long-Term Care Support Fund (S$5.08 billion).

Something that is also of note is the S$1.1 billion Bicentennial Bonus (celebrating 200 years since Raffles landed in Singapore), under which the government will give S$150 to S$300 to 1.4 million lower-income Singaporeans this year, which is under the Special Transfers category.

The Bonus also includes top-ups to Edusave and Post-Secondary Education Accounts, and CPF top-ups of up to S$1,000 for elderly Singaporeans aged 50 to 64 who have less than S$60,000 in their CPF accounts.

Because of this, I think the signs are that 2019 is probably going to be an election year.

  • 8 ministries in Social Development sector
  • 3 ministries Security and External Relations sector
  • 4 ministries in Economic Development sector
  • 4 ministries in Government Administration sector

If you look at the data, 5 ministries comprise about close to 75% of all budget spend - Defence, Education, Health, Transport, and Home Affairs.

For those who are not familiar with the data plot of this chart, the default stacked area view sums up all the expenditure across all ministries across all the years.

Probably more interesting is the percentage view, which is a proportionate comparison of expenditure spend with each other, and is good at giving a sense of the priorities of where our government spends on over two decades.

I find the proportion percentage more interesting and useful than expenditure as a fraction of GDP stats for comparison (which I don't visualize).

Some interesting facts: Way gone are the days where more was spent proportionally on Trade and Industry before 2000 than on Health.

Health is one sector that has seen an obvious increase in proportionate spend over two decades. This spends moves in tandem with our aging population.

Another interesting sector is Transport. It is one of the sectors where you will see spikes up-and-downs over the years (in the percentage proportion chart), whilst almost every other sector is smoother.

Because transport is one ministry where it is often more developmental expenditure (e.g. buying trains) than operational expenses (e.g. manpower), I suspect the budgets tend to vary more year-on-year.

Typically for most other sectors, they tend to be operational spend. See the chart below.

Expenditure by sector and type

This is an updated expenditure by sector / type zoomable packed circle visualization that I tweaked for this year.

New is the animation, and also that if you are on desktop with a mouse (sorry mobile and tablet users), you can now see a preview of what is beneath the bubble when you mouseover.

I feel this helps with the user experience, and it is more intuitive that the bigger bubble contains other bubbles.

In this chart, every ministry / sector can be drilled down all the way to see the difference in operational and developmental expenditure. Click outside the bubbles to go back a level.

It allows you to visually at a glance compare sector vs ministry and opertional vs developmental spend split easily.

Many ministries spend quite a bit more on operational expenditure. The more interesting ones that buck this trend this year are Transport, Trade and industry, and Law.

New data set - expenditure by type

A totally new data set was visualized this year, and it is the split in the type of expenditure (click on the breakdown by type button).

I believe this dataset is new in the release, and I didn't see it before in the years prior when I was doing all the visualizations.

It gives us a far better ideas of what is operational and what is developmental expenditure.

For example, operational expenditure includes things like transfers, besides running costs. Manpower is actually not a huge component of operational expenditure! At S$9.6 billion it is only 16% of Operational expenditure (S$60.8 billion).

One interesting tidbit: We do spend for Overseas Development Assistance (this bubble also includes International Organizations, but no space to add this text), but it is miniscue.

At S$159 million compared to our expenditure of S$80.3 billion it is just 0.2% of all expenditure spend.

  • Other taxes: Includes Foreign Worker Levy, Development Charge, Annual Tonnage Tax and Water Conservation Tax
  • Other fees and charges: Includes revenue from Licenses, Permits, Service Fees, Sales of Goods, Rentals of Premises, Fines and Forfeitures, and Reimbursements

The revenues projection looks pretty standard for this year, and nothing really stands out.

The spike in FY2017 was due to statutory board contributions from MAS, due to unexpected currency fluctuations, according to Straits Times.

GST has been more and more important to our nation's coffers over the years.

In 1994, when GST was introduced, it was 3%. This was raised to 4% in 2003, then 5% in 2004, and then 7% in 2007. You can see from the charts the shifts in 2003 and 2004 - it grew quickly and overtook personal income tax to be the number second revenue stream for our government.

With GST set to rise from 7% to 9% sometime between 2021 to 2025, we should probably see a spike in the importance of this category even more when it occurs.

Will it overtake all other categories?

As always, the answer is more data, and we'll see about this in future years.

I will update this long-term passion project of mine (if I can) every year with new budget data, and hopefully it will showcase some interesting long-term trends to citizens.

Data Sources

Latest 2019 data taken from Singapore Budget 2019 website (by MOF).

If you enjoyed this, do check out our other visualizations here at Viz.sg.

Or go to V/R for more cool frontend stuff - data visualizations, animations and the like!