President Halimah gives in-principle approval to draw down another $4 billion for Solidarity Budget amid Covid-19 outbreak

Altogether, the Government's response to the Covid-19 pandemic will cost $59.9 billion in total. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

SINGAPORE - The third set of support measures announced by Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat on Monday (April 6) will cost $5.1 billion.

This Solidarity Budget will also necessitate an additional drawdown of $4 billion from the national reserves, he told the House.

President Halimah Yacob has given in-principle support for this additional draw, said Mr Heng, who is also Finance Minister.

She had earlier given in-principle support for a draw of $17 billion to fund the Government's second support package to help businesses and workers battered by economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.

Shortly after Mr Heng's statement in Parliament, President Halimah said in a Facebook post that Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Mr Heng had discussed the severity and urgency of the Covid-19 situation with her last week.

"I agreed with them that we need to provide additional support quickly and decisively. We have to help businesses retain their capacity so that they can resume activities when the safe distancing measures are lifted. We should protect jobs for our workers, and give additional support to vulnerable groups," she said.

This third package comes a day before a government-mandated shutdown of most workplaces and all schools to stem the spread of the coronavirus.

Dubbed a "circuit breaker", it is meant to cut down movement and social interactions outside of homes to break the chain of transmission of the virus.

While these "significantly stricter pre-emptive measures" are needed to protect Singaporeans and their families, Mr Heng acknowledged that workers and businesses will be severely impacted.

"Additional support will be required to save jobs, preserve capabilities, and provide immediate direct assistance to Singaporeans to help them tide through this exceptional and difficult period," he said.

The additional drawdown of $4 billion will fund enhanced wage support for businesses, among other support measures.

The Solidarity Budget follows two initial tranches of support - the Unity Budget (announced during the Budget in February) and the Resilience Budget (a supplementary Budget unveiled last month).

Altogether, the Government's response to the Covid-19 will cost $59.9 billion in total, or 12 per cent of Singapore's GDP, said the Deputy Prime Minister.

The country's overall Budget deficit for the 2020 financial year will increase to $44.3 billion or 8.9 per cent of GDP, Mr Heng added.

"This is an unprecedented Budget, for extraordinary times. The situation remains highly fluid and uncertain. The Government stands ready to provide further support, should it become necessary," he said.

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