Spirit of 'Singapore Together' crucial as country recovers from Covid-19 crisis, says Heng Swee Keat

Singaporeans from all walks of life have responded to the crisis with "unity, resilience and in solidarity". ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG

SINGAPORE - Singaporeans need to continue to stand together as the country recovers from the coronavirus crisis, Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat told Parliament on Tuesday (May 26), as he unveiled Singapore's fourth Budget for the year.

The "Fortitude Budget", as he calls it, will commit an extra $33 billion to bolster the country's efforts to ride through the Covid-19 pandemic. Combined with the three earlier budgets, this takes the total amount of money the Government is dedicating to this cause to $92.9 billion.

"The battle against Covid-19 will be a long one. The road ahead will be uncertain, with more ups and downs," said Mr Heng, who is also the Finance Minister.

"Our generation must have the fortitude to persevere, to adapt and to emerge stronger, just like our founding generation. This is why I have named this our Fortitude Budget - courage in adversity."

Singaporeans from all walks of life have responded to the crisis with "unity, resilience and in solidarity", he said, acknowledging the efforts of various groups of people in the community.

The country is building up its local production of surgical and cloth masks, and steps have been taken to control the spread of the coronavirus in migrant workers' dormitories, he added.

"Our agencies pulled out all the stops to set up centres in a matter of days, and have been running major operations to take care of the workers. NGOs (non-governmental organisations), such as the Migrant Workers' Centre, and volunteer groups such as the Covid-19 Migrant Support Coalition, are also providing significant support.

"Many are coming forward to contribute their resources, skills and gifts to help the wider community get through this together."

More than 32,000 people in Singapore have been infected with Covid-19. Most of the new cases have been foreign workers living in dormitories.

He also praised the good work of other groups - from arts company 3Pumpkins' online programmes for Malay, Mandarin and dialect-speaking audiences to the people who provide emotional support via the 24-hour National Care Hotline.

"This spirit of Singapore Together will be critical, as we come together to recover and rebuild for a stronger, more sustainable tomorrow."

Singapore's "circuit breaker" social distancing measures will be eased in phases from June 2 onwards. Mr Heng urged Singaporeans to comply with these measures.

"Our collective action protects us, our families, our community and our lives."

He urged businesses to support one another.

"Larger businesses can bring forward procurement and payment schedules to help their suppliers. Our trade associations and chambers (TACs) have stepped up to support businesses. For example, the Singapore Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry has formed a Covid-19 task force to raise funds to support their micro-SME members.

"And, of course, landlords can support their tenants."

He added that the Emerging Stronger Task Force is also partnering business leaders, owners of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), industry experts and TACs as it studies how the country can emerge stronger in the post-Covid world.

"In the spirit of Singapore Together, I hope Singaporeans will participate to share your ideas," he said.

Mr Heng also said society must take special care of its more vulnerable members, such as seniors, those with special needs and people who have lost their jobs. The Government is implementing "many help schemes" to address their needs, he added.

"Some groups have been more severely affected, such as low-wage workers in informal jobs and self-employed persons, whose incomes have fallen sharply. We will continue to assist them, and help to strengthen their longer-term social security.

"Our social service agencies, charities and volunteers have stepped up - let us mobilise everyone to do our part to build a more resilient Singapore."

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