Singapore GE2020: Budget support measures have been effective in helping residents, says DPM Heng Swee Keat

Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat (seated, in white) with PAP team members Foo Mee Har and Communications and Information Minister S. Iswaran at Teban Gardens Market and Food Centre in West Coast GRC on June 27, 2020. ST PHOTO: GAVIN FOO

SINGAPORE - The various financial support measures in the Budget have been effective in helping workers keep their jobs and tide them over this period, Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat said on Saturday (June 27).

"These have been very helpful to residents and I hope that we will continue to look at what else needs to be done. When I ask them if these have been adequate, many of them have said yes, they can feel the flow of benefits," he added.

Mr Heng, who is also Finance Minister, was speaking to reporters after meeting hawkers and residents at Teban Gardens Market and Food Centre in West Coast GRC.

With him were two members of the People's Action Party (PAP) team, Communications and Information Minister S. Iswaran and Ms Foo Mee Har.

Mr Heng said his visit was meant to see if the Budget support measures have been working as intended, and if Singaporeans have further concerns.

He added that he was glad to hear many, including stallholders and workers, tell him the financial support has helped.

"A job is the most important thing for our people, because once they have that, it's not just one-time support, but it is a continuous stream of income that you can look forward to.

"So I'm very glad to see that many of our companies are responding to this, and our workers are keeping their jobs," said Mr Heng.

The Government's four Budgets this year will see around $93 billion spent to help companies, workers and households cope with the economic crisis caused by Covid-19, and a key measure is the Jobs Support Scheme to help companies retain workers by footing up to 75 per cent of the first $4,600 of local workers' wages.

Mr Heng also said others told him they were glad to have the Solidarity Payment - $600 in cash for all adult Singaporeans, paid out in April - and Solidarity Utilities Credit scheme, along with service and conservancy charges rebates and income relief scheme for the self-employed.

Public agencies are also working hard to ensure the schemes reach their intended beneficiaries, he said, adding the hawkers he met are glad that they get rental waivers for five months, and a range of support measures.

"People are adjusting very well to this new situation. Many of them have told me how they are supporting one another, and this is the neighbourly spirit that we need to develop in our society," he added.

Mr Heng noted that some companies which have done well during this Covid-19 period have rewarded workers with bonuses, saying more companies should do so.

While most of Singapore's economy has resumed since the second phase of reopening began last Friday (June 19), Mr Heng urged caution as the pandemic is still raging around the world, and second waves have emerged elsewhere.

He added that the last three Budgets were done in "double quick time", compared to the usual budget preparation period, which takes months.

"I'm glad that the mechanism that we have in place allows us to respond quickly, and I want to see the measures reaching the ground effectively. So I'm glad to see that this is happening," he said, adding that he would be visiting other parts of Singapore too.

Mr Heng later visited Causeway Point in Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC, accompanied by members of the PAP team there, National Development Minister and Second Finance Minister Lawrence Wong and Minister of State for Manpower and National Development Zaqy Mohamad.

Meanwhile, asked about the challenge posed by Dr Tan Cheng Bock, who is leading a team from the Progress Singapore Party to contest the five-member West Coast GRC, Mr Iswaran noted that other parties have contested the GRC in the past.

"Our message and stance have been consistent. We're focused on improving the lives and livelihoods of our residents. In other words, we want to take care of their needs, we want to enhance their well-being," he said.

Mr Iswaran added that the focus was on helping residents with immediate challenges posed by the Covid-19 situation, and also prepare for the long term.

"That is our focus, that is our message to our residents, and that is the basis on which we will campaign, and we will stand on our track record," he said.

The People's Action Party team won 78.57 per cent of the votes in the GRC in GE2015.

Mr Leon Khoo, 28, a stall-owner at Jurong West Hawker Centre selling handmade fries, said that while he has benefited from the five months worth of rental waivers, this measure would benefit hawkers in different places to different extents.

"For hawkers operating in hawker centres with higher human traffic, being allowed to take customers who are dining-in is more important as it forms a large proportion of their income," he said.

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