SINGAPORE: Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance Heng Swee Keat delivered a ministerial statement on Thursday (Mar 26), announcing about S$48 billion in additional support measures from the Government in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Resilience Budget has three key areas: To save jobs and support workers; to help businesses overcome immediate challenges; and to strengthen economic and social resilience, Mr Heng said.
Here’s what you need to know about the additional support measures and who they benefit.
HELP FOR WORKERS
The package’s immediate priority is to protect livelihoods, said Mr Heng. This follows the S$4 billion Stabilisation and Support Package for workers and firms announced during Budget last month.
The Jobs Support Scheme will be “significantly” enhanced, with the Government co-funding 25 per cent to 75 per cent of wages for local workers, up to a cap of S$4,600 a month. Industries that are badly affected by COVID-19 will get a higher subsidy.
A S$1.2 billion relief fund has been set up for self-employed persons who have less means and family support. Those eligible can get $1,000 a month for nine months.
In addition, self-employed people will receive enhanced hourly training allowances, which will be raised from S$7.50 to S$10. The training support scheme will also be extended to December this year.
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A COVID-19 Support Grant will be introduced from May to September to help those who lost their jobs due to the COVID-19 situation.
Those eligible can receive S$800 per month for three months to tide them over while they look for a new job or go for training.
A SGUnited Traineeship programme for first-time job seekers was also launched to help place them at local firms. Workforce Singapore will co-fund the manpower costs with the companies.
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Mr Heng also promised to create about 10,000 jobs over the next year.
The public sector will take the lead and accelerate recruitment. This includes long-term roles in areas such as social services, early childhood education and ICT to enhance the provision of essential services. Short-term temporary jobs will also be offered to handle the increase in COVID-19 related operations.
Lower-income workers, including the self-employed, will get an enhanced Workfare Special Payment of S$3,000 cash each.
HELP FOR HOUSEHOLDS
The previously announced Care and Support Package will be enhanced to help all families cope with the uncertainty during the COVID-19 outbreak, with increased cash payouts for all adult Singaporeans, families with young children and needy Singaporeans.
Cash payouts for all adult Singaporeans will now be tripled to a range of S$300 to S$900, depending on their income.
For families that require help urgently while waiting for new measures to kick in, a Temporary Relief Fund will be set up in April to provide immediate financial assistance.
The Government will also exercise more flexibility when considering applications for ComCare to ensure affected Singaporeans can get help.
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The Government will also freeze fees and charges for government services, and suspend student loan repayments and interest charges for one year.
In addition, people who have legal obligations arising from the COVID-19 situation – for example, forfeited deposits for a big gathering that cannot go ahead – will get help. Mr Heng said that the Government is studying the issue and will announce measures next week.
HELP FOR BUSINESSES
The supplementary Budget will address three concerns on the minds of business owners during the COVID-19 period – cash flow, cost and credit, said Mr Heng.
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An automatic deferment of income tax payments for companies and self-employed persons will be granted for three months.
Commercial properties badly affected by COVID-19, such as hotels, tourist attractions, shops and restaurants, will pay no property tax for 2020.
The Government will also waive rent for some. For example, stallholders in hawker centres managed by the National Environment Agency (NEA) or NEA-appointed operators will get three months of rental waiver.
Various schemes, loans and programmes will be enhanced and expanded in order for even the hardest-hit businesses to continue having access to credit, said Mr Heng.
HELP FOR HARDEST HIT SECTORS
As Singapore’s aviation sector is fundamental to the economy, the Government will ensure that the temporary shock to the sector does not become a permanent one, said Mr Heng.
A S$350 million enhanced aviation support package will fund measures such as rebates on landing and parking charges, and rental relief for airlines, ground handlers and cargo agents.
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Firms in the food services sector will receive 50 per cent co-funding per worker, while firms in the aviation and tourism sectors will receive 75 per cent. This is subject to a monthly wage cap of S$4,600.
A total of S$90 million will also be set aside to help the tourism industry rebound strongly “when the time is right”, said Mr Heng.
DRAWING FROM RESERVES
Up to S$17 billion will be drawn from Singapore’s past reserves to fund part of the Resilience Budget.
The 2009 financial crisis was the only other time that Singapore had dipped into its reserves, when the Government drew S$4.9 billion to help workers stay employed and companies get credit.
“We have saved up for a rainy day,” said Mr Heng. “The COVID-19 pandemic is already a mighty storm, and is still growing.”
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The measures announced on Thursday will raise Singapore’s overall budget deficit for FY2020 to S$39.2 billion, or 7.9 per cent of its GDP.
Mr Heng highlighted that Singapore is able to support the unprecedented deficit and still remain fiscally sustainable because it has been disciplined in the use of past reserves.
He said that political office holders will take a deeper pay cut of three months and urged everyone in Singapore to “stand together” to battle the crisis.