Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat announced a fifth round of COVID-19 spending today, which includes ongoing salary support as well as money to stimulate domestic tourism.
The S$8 billion (US$6 billion) package will add to the nearly S$100 billion spent previously to stave off the worst effects of a pandemic that has sent the economy into a tailspin. The money will come from budgets in other areas “such as development expenditures that were delayed due to COVID-19” and not drawn from reserves.
“It is a difficult journey ahead, but you will not walk alone,” Heng said dramatically, invoking English football club Liverpool’s slogan. “We are faced with an extraordinary crisis, but we are one people with extraordinary courage, commitment, and can-do spirit.”
Heng added that he would extend existing salary support for some sectors, introduce a S$1 billion employer hiring incentive, and hand out travel vouchers to boost domestic tourism.
With tourism all but nonexistent due to ongoing travel restrictions, Heng said S$320 million would be set aside in the form of SingapoRediscovers Vouchers to encourage domestic spending.
“Many Singaporeans love to travel but are unable to do so now. Local consumption will not fully make up for tourist spending, but I hope Singaporeans will take the opportunity to explore our local culture and heritage, nature, art and architecture. You may be surprised by what you discover,” he said.
Under the Jobs Support Scheme, the hard-hit aviation, aerospace and tourism sectors, will receive 50% wage support for another seven months, until March. The Enhanced Aviation Support Package covering cost relief will also be extended to March, with S$187 million set aside. Aviation workers will be temporarily redeployed to other areas such as healthcare, he added.
The Jobs Growth Incentive program will focus on providing jobs to older workers in sectors said to be thriving despite the pandemic, such as biomedical sciences, financial services, and IT.
Heng said that cash payouts under the COVID-19 Support Grant will be extended for those unemployed or suffered significant income loss until the end of this year. Applications for the grants will open in October.
Heng also gave an update on a digital innovation push branded the Emerging Stronger Taskforce that had been announced in April.
“The Taskforce has been consulting widely and is in the midst of a three-month sprint to prototype new ideas through the industry-led Alliances for Action. Areas being covered include smart commerce and supply chain digitalization,” he said.
The taskforce is led by Minister Desmond Lee and PSA International CEO Tan Chong Meng.
Singapore last week recorded its worst GDP performance in history, falling 42.9% during the second quarter.
Heng said Friday that the road to recovery would be “uneven and uncertain” but promised that aid would continue, even if at a lower level.
The latest budget adds to the nearly S$100 billion already set aside to address the economic impacts of COVID-19, mainly through cash payouts, rental and foreign worker levy waivers, and salary support.
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