Coronavirus outbreak

Consider tapping reserves if needed, says President

President Halimah Yacob launched the President’s Challenge Enabling Employment Pledge on March 11, 2020. ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

Singapore must do everything necessary to safeguard the health and welfare of its people, including tapping its past reserves, if this is needed to help workers and businesses tide over the coronavirus outbreak, President Halimah Yacob said yesterday.

She noted in a Facebook post that the country will be greatly impacted by the crisis, especially since the global situation has worsened and financial markets are feeling the impact.

"In such a situation, we must do our utmost to support our people and our businesses, including considering using past reserves if necessary," Madam Halimah wrote.

"If our public health is at stake and our people's welfare affected, we need to do the necessary."

Her post came hours after Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat said that the Government is not ruling out the use of Singapore's past reserves, although it must first get the President's consent.

"Our reserves have been set aside to meet the needs of a rainy day, and it looks like this rain is not a light one," he told a Budget roundtable jointly organised by The Straits Times and The Business Times.

"So, we will have to look at what we need to do," said Mr Heng.

President Halimah said that the Government has been keeping her and the Council of Presidential Advisers updated, and that they are monitoring the situation closely.

"Health experts from around the world have warned that it will take many more months before the virus will run its course, with devastating consequences on people and economies. The crashing oil prices seriously aggravated the situation," she wrote.

She added: "Many of our companies, particularly those related to the tourism industry, but more broadly other sectors as well, are bleeding because of disrupted supply chains, rapidly falling demand and tightening cash flows. Fear and loss of confidence have gripped financial markets around the world."

She also urged Singaporeans to continue doing their best in the fight against the coronavirus and to support one another.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 12, 2020, with the headline Consider tapping reserves if needed, says President. Subscribe