Singapore is spending another S$48b to deal with Covid-19’s aftermath, for a total of S$55b – here are the targetted areas

“In economic terms alone, this will likely be the worst economic contraction since independence,” Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat said.
The Straits Times

Singapore’s Government has announced it will set aside almost S$55 billion to deal with the coronavirus outbreak and its aftermath.

Out of this S$55 billion – which is around 11 per cent of its GDP – S$48.4 billion was announced during the Supplementary Budget announcement in Parliament on Thursday (Mar 26). The first S$6.4 billion was announced during the Budget announcement in February.

Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat said on Thursday that the “landmark package” had been given “in-principle” approval by President Halimah Yacob.

The Prime Minister, Cabinet ministers and other political office-holders – as well as the President – will take a three-month pay cut, he added.

Called the “Resilience Budget”, this is only the second time the nation is drawing on its national reserves to fund special measures. The first time was during the 2009 global financial crisis, The Straits Times reported.

“In economic terms alone, this will likely be the worst economic contraction since independence,” Heng said.

Here are some of the key areas the Resilience Budget will focus on:

For workers

Wages of all local workers to be subsidised by at least 25%

Thursday’s Supplementary Budget saw the enhancement of the Jobs Support Scheme, which was first introduced in the Budget announcement.

The scheme, which is meant to help around 1.9 million local workers retain their jobs, will be given a total of S$15.1 billion, The Straits Times (ST) reported.

The Government will now co-fund up to 25 per cent of the first S$4,600 of the worker’s wage, up from 8 per cent announced earlier.

The Straits Times

In addition, the aviation and tourism sectors will get more help, with 75 per cent of wages supported, while food services will receive 50 per cent support, ST reported.

The scheme will also be extended till the end of the year, and businesses will have three payout tranches – May, July and October.

Cash payout for self-employed Singaporeans

According to ST, a new Self-Employed Person Income Relief Scheme will see eligible self-employed Singaporeans get S$1,000 in cash every month for nine months.

More details on the S$1.2 billion scheme will be announced soon.

In addition, S$48 million has also been set aside for the Self-Employed Person Training Support Scheme. Hourly training allowances will be increased from S$7.50 to S$10, ST reported.

More jobs created

The Manpower Ministry is also due to announce a new SGUnited Traineeships programme, which will provide up to 8,000 work experience opportunities for first-time job seekers.

At the same time, around 10,000 new jobs will be created over the next year under the SGUnited Jobs initiative, ST reported.

Payouts for lower-income workers enhanced

Another scheme that received added boost on Thursday was the Workfare Special Payment. Lower-income workers, including those who are self-employed, will now get S$3,000 in cash.

Support for people who lose their jobs

In his speech, Heng also revealed that S$145 million will go towards social service offices and community centres to help the unemployed. A temporary relief fund will be set up in April to help families that need urgent help, while a Covid-19 Support Grant from May to September will provide those who lost their jobs S$800 a month for three months as they seek new work or training.

For businesses

Some businesses will not have to pay property tax

On Thursday, Heng said restaurants, shops, hotels and tourist attractions will be exempted from the property tax in 2020.

Some businesses will also get a 30 per cent property tax rebate, while income tax payments for firms and people who are self-employed will be deferred by three months.

Hawker rentals waived for three months

The Straits Times

Hawkers managed by the National Environment Agency will not have to pay their rents for three months, while eligible tenants of the Housing Board and National Arts Council will also have their rents waived for two months.

Businesses will also benefit from the freezing of government charges and fees for one year, a ST report said.

Aviation, tourism, transport and art sectors to receive help

The aviation industry is set to get a S$350 million enhanced support package that will include rebates and rental relief.

S$90 million will also be set aside to help the tourism industry rebound at the right time, The Business Times (BT) reported.

A S$95 million enhancement to the Point-to-Point support package will also help taxi and private-hire car drivers meet their costs, while private bus owners are set to get a one-year road tax rebate and six-month parking waiver at government-managed carparks, ST said.

There will also be $55 million in support for the arts and culture sector to digitalise and retain jobs.

SMEs to get more help with loans

A total of S$20 billion in loan capital will be set aside to support firms and catalyse private sector loan capital, ST reported.

The quantum for trade loans under the enterprise financing scheme (EFS) will be doubled to S$10 million for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), and the Government will also increase its share of risk to 80 per cent from 70 per cent previously.

Other enhancements include further subsidies to loan insurance premiums, raising of maximum supported loans under the Temporary Bridging Loan Programme (TBLP), and an increase of maximum quantum under the EFS’ working capital loan for SMEs, ST reported.

For Singaporeans and households

The Straits Times

Cash payouts and vouchers increased

All Singaporeans above the age of 21 will now receive cash payouts of S$900, S$600 and S$300, depending on their income, ST reported.

Parents with a Singaporean child below the age of 20 will also receive S$300, up from the previously announced S$100.

Singaporeans who live in 1- and 2-room HDB flats and own a maximum of one property will also get S$300 in grocery vouchers in 2020 and S$100 in 2021.

A special S$100 PAssion Card top-up for Singaporeans above 50 years old announced in February will also be given as a cash payout instead.

Government fees frozen

All government fees and charges will also be frozen for one year till March 31 next year. Loan repayment and interest charges for graduates who took government loans for their university and polytechnic studies will also be suspended from June this year to May next year.

Self-help groups get more support

Self-help groups are also getting more support, with S$20 million over two years to help more families, up from S$10 million previously.

Community Development Councils will also get S$75 million, up from S$20 million.

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