Budget 2021: S'pore must not neglect future while grappling with pandemic, says PM Lee

"This year, we will continue to help Singaporeans and businesses through the $11 billion Covid-19 Resilience Package," said PM Lee. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

SINGAPORE - Singapore's Budget seeks to build on the country's capabilities and competitiveness because the country must keep an eye on the future even amid a pandemic, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

"When the sun shines again, we must be ready to seize the new opportunities," he said, commenting on the Budget in a Facebook post on Tuesday (Feb 16).

He also said that the "can do" spirit helped Singapore to overcome the last financial crisis, adding that with the resilience that Singaporeans have shown this time, he is confident that Singapore can do it again.

PM Lee noted that financial year 2020's budget deficit of $64.9 billion, or 13.9 per cent of gross domestic product - Singapore's largest ever - was "what we needed, to keep Singaporeans safe and protect their livelihoods during Covid-19".

"This year, we will continue to help Singaporeans and businesses through the $11 billion Covid-19 Resilience Package. Although we are again running a deficit, it is much smaller - only 2.2 per cent of GDP. Things are gradually returning to normal," he added.

In separate post on Tuesday, President Halimah Yacob said she had agreed in principle last month to the Government's proposal to draw down reserves due to the "current exceptional circumstances".

This is the second consecutive year that the Government will draw on past reserves.

She said that Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat had briefed her and the Council of Presidential Advisers last month on the Government's proposal to tap $11 billion from past reserves to fund short-term relief measures under Budget 2021.

"After Parliament has debated the Budget, I will formally consider the proposal before giving my assent to the Supply Bill. DPM also briefed me on the Government's overall approach in the medium term. I will consider the Government's specific proposals at a later date, should there be a further need to draw on past reserves," said Madam Halimah.

She added: "The road ahead is going to be challenging and uncertain. We must remain resolute in our fight against Covid-19. At the same time, the post-Covid-19 world presents us with new opportunities in innovation and transformation. How we continue to respond to the crisis will determine our future. So let us stay the course and continue to chart a brighter common destiny together."

A range of initiatives, including vouchers for families and extended wage subsidies for sectors hardest hit by the pandemic, were announced by Mr Heng on Tuesday.

Households will get more rebates and vouchers to spend in the heartland, while lifelines for firms in sectors like aviation and tourism will be extended for a few more months.

Read next: Highlights of Budget 2021 - From household vouchers to GST on imported low-value goods bought online

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