Budget 2021: Additional $870m to help battered aviation sector

The aviation sector is expected to remain badly affected this year.
The aviation sector is expected to remain badly affected this year.ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

SINGAPORE - The aviation sector will get additional support and extended cost relief to the tune of $870 million, given that the volume of international air travel remains a tiny fraction of what it was.

The sector is expected to remain badly affected this year, and recovery will take some time, said Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat on Tuesday (Feb 16).

The funding for the sector will come under the $11 billion Covid-19 Resilience Package.

Additional funding drawn from a separate $24 billion fund to help firms and workers emerge stronger will be invested in on-arrival testing and biosafety systems, said Mr Heng. This will help to secure Singapore's position as a key aviation hub that both travellers and employees trust in.

"Airports will be differentiated by their capabilities in securing public health and enabling safe travel," Mr Heng added.

"They will need digitalised systems and the ability to effectively reroute people and goods."

One example of work on this front is GovTech's collaboration with Temasek-founded start-up Affinidi.

The two organisations are working together to develop software that can quickly verify digital Covid-19 test result certificates and vaccination records. An app developed by Affinidi is now being trialled by Singapore Airlines to verify health documents produced by travellers.

But Mr Heng cautioned that Covid-19 has reshuffled the global web of connectivity.

For example, the total number of passengers passing through Changi remains at about 2 per cent of pre-Covid-19 levels as at end-January.

"I expect the aviation sector to use this lull to sustain and upgrade its capabilities, and to prepare for the recovery," he added.

The land transport sector was also flagged for additional support by Mr Heng.

He said $133 million has been set aside to continue the earlier announced Covid-19 Driver Relief Fund.

Eligible drivers will get $600 per month from January to March, and $450 per month from April to June.

Additional support for arts and culture, sports

The arts and culture, as well as the sports sector, have also been "deeply affected by the pandemic", said Mr Heng on Tuesday.

Hence, the Government will extend the Arts and Culture Resilience Package and Sports Resilience Package to support businesses and self-employed people in these sectors.

A sum of $45 million will be allocated to extend and enhance the support packages, said Mr Heng. He said the enhancement will support capability development and sector transformation, among other goals.

"We look forward to activities resuming, with greater vibrancy," said Mr Heng.

More details will be disclosed next week when debate starts on each ministry's budget.

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