Singapore announces additional budget to support coronavirus-hit economy

By Gurdip Singh
    Singapore, Apr 6 (PTI) Singapore on Monday announced an additional budget of SGD 5.1 billion (USD 3.5 billion) to support jobs and mitigate the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the country's economy, days after Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced the closure of most workplaces as part of his "decisive move" to contain the spread of the deadly disease.
    The third tranche of COVID-19 support measures includes wage subsidies for every local worker, cash payouts for all adult citizens and more help for the self-employed.
    This will cost the city-state government SGD 5.1 billion ((USD 3.5 billion), including SGD 4 billion (USD 2.7 billion) that would be drawn from the country's reserves.
    With this, the government's combined COVID-19 support package comes to SGD 59.9 billion (USD 41.7 billion), Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat said in parliament, announcing the latest increases in state spending dubbed as “solidarity budget”.
    “This is an unprecedented budget, for extraordinary times. The situation remains highly fluid and uncertain. The government stands ready to provide further support, should it become necessary,” said Heng.
    This is about 12 per cent of Singapore's gross domestic product, according to Channel News Asia.
    Lee, in a live televised speech on Friday, announced the closure of most workplaces and moving to home-based learning for schoolchildren to contain the spread of the disease in the country.
    Of the new package, SGD 4 billion will go to additional support for businesses and workers, and SGD 1.1 billion to the solidarity payment that includes payouts of SGD 600 (USD 418) for each adult Singaporean.
    This adds to the SGD 48.4 billion (USD 33.17 billion) resilience budget unveiled on March 26 and the SGD 6.4 billion (USD 4.4 billion) unity budget announced in February.
    The overall budget deficit for FY 2020 will increase to SGD 44.3 billion (USD 30.8 billion) or 8.9 per cent of GDP, said Heng, who is also the Finance Minister.
    President Halimah Yacob had already given her in-principle support for the government to draw up to SGD 17 billion (USD 11 billion) from past reserves to fund some of the measures in the resilience budget.
    “With the significantly stricter pre-emptive measures needed to protect Singaporeans and our families, it is now necessary for us to propose a further draw on past reserves,” said Heng as country's economic situation is deteriorating amid the coronavirus crisis, increasing uncertainties for the 5.6 million population.
    The President has given in-principle support to draw on an additional SGD 4 billion from the reserves, said Heng.
    “Specifically, this will be used to fund the enhanced Job Support Scheme, the enhanced Temporary Bridging Loan Programme and Enterprise Financing Scheme, and the Solidarity Payment to Singaporeans,” he said.
    Singapore reported 120 new coronavirus cases on Sunday, the highest daily increase since the disease broke out.
    As of Sunday, Singapore has a total of 1,309 coronavirus patients.
    A total of 19,800 foreign workers across two dormitories have been placed under quarantine and they will have to stay in their rooms for the next 14 days, Channel News Asia reported.
    Authorities are anticipating further spike in the number of coronavirus cases while people have been told to stay at home and step out only to buy essentials to contain the fast-spreading disease. PTI GS RS RS

(This story has not been edited by THE WEEK and is auto-generated from PTI)