Help in Budget for families, firms to tackle virus fallout

In a photo taken on Feb 16, 2020, Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat, Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Home Affairs Sun Xueling and SCDF Commissioner Eric Yap meet with frontline SCDF officers at Kallang Fire Station.
In a photo taken on Feb 16, 2020, Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat, Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Home Affairs Sun Xueling and SCDF Commissioner Eric Yap meet with frontline SCDF officers at Kallang Fire Station. ST PHOTOS: GAVIN FOO

Heng Swee Keat says Budget will have package to help households with expenses during crisis

Families will get help with daily expenses and firms can look forward to tax rebates in the Budget tomorrow as the nation deals with the economic fallout from the coronavirus outbreak.

Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat said in a video message yesterday that the Government will do "all that is necessary" to help workers and firms recover from the health crisis.

"Never doubt that Singapore has the means to bounce back from this outbreak," he added.

Mr Heng, who is also Deputy Prime Minister, said the Budget will have a package to assist households with cost of living to address concerns about expenses during this uncertain period.

Other broad-based measures include wage support to help companies preserve jobs for local workers, and tax rebates and rental waivers for firms to address cash flow issues.

There will also be support to help firms and workers restructure, train and upgrade in preparation for the eventual upturn.

Sectors that have been harder hit, such as the food and beverage and retail industries, will get more help, Mr Heng noted, adding: "With all these additional support measures, you have my assurance that we will rebound from this, never fear."

Mr Heng recorded his video message yesterday at Kallang Fire Station, where he met Singapore Civil Defence Force front-line officers and Team Singapore athletes who were there in support.

In his message, Mr Heng said the outbreak came unexpectedly and has evolved rapidly.

"We are taking a risk-based approach, stepping up safeguards as the situation changes," he said.

For example, Singapore raised its Disease Outbreak Response System Condition (Dorscon) to orange on Feb 7 after the first indications of local transmission, and on Friday reactivated its network of 900 Public Health Preparedness Clinics.

The clinics provide subsidised treatment, investigations and drugs during disease outbreaks, for patients with symptoms.

Apart from supporting firms, workers and families, Mr Heng highlighted two other responses to see Singapore through the outbreak: mobilising new capabilities and strengthening social resilience.

First, he noted that capabilities have improved since the 2003 severe acute respiratory syndrome crisis. These include setting up the National Centre for Infectious Diseases and better healthcare infrastructure and technology.

Investments in research and development, especially in health and biomedical sciences, have also allowed Singapore to respond better to Covid-19, as the viral disease is now known. He cited a new diagnostic kit that local researchers developed just over a week after the viral sequence was available.

Second, Mr Heng stressed the importance of social and psychological resilience in fighting the disease, including personal hygiene, staying updated through credible sources, being socially responsible by staying at home if ill and not panic buying, and caring for others.

 

"Together, we can overcome this outbreak and emerge stronger and more united, as one people."

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 17, 2020, with the headline 'Help in Budget for families, firms to tackle virus fallout'. Print Edition | Subscribe