SINGAPORE - Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat will present a supplementary Budget in Parliament on Thursday (March 26), and detail additional support measures to help workers, businesses and households cope with the coronavirus outbreak.
In a Facebook post on Monday (March 23), Mr Heng noted that the move comes just five weeks after he announced the Budget on Feb 18, which included a $4 billion package to help workers and firms affected by the outbreak.
“This is the first time that we are introducing a supplementary budget so soon after the main budget, reflecting how fast the situation has deteriorated over the past weeks,” he said.
The coronavirus has infected more than 343,000 people worldwide and killed more than 14,900. Stock markets have taken a heavy beating, and multiple countries have imposed lockdown measures to stem the spread of Covid-19.
Singapore on Sunday announced that it will take the unprecedented step of barring all short-term visitors, including tourists.
Mr Heng, who is also Finance Minister, said the world faces “a global pandemic, an economic shock, and a test of the financial systems all rolled into one”.
And while Singapore’s frontline workers, public officers and the general public are doing their part, the outbreak has inevitably taken a big toll on the economy, with many jobs and livelihoods at stake, he said.
Many Singaporeans are worried about their jobs and everyday lives, as well as the well-being of their loved ones, he added.
“We will meet this challenge head-on,” Mr Heng said. “This is a Budget to support Singaporeans to stay united and resilient.”
He added: “We will keep you safe, preserve jobs and livelihoods, as well as help viable enterprises stay strong.”
The deputy prime minister noted that Monday was the fifth death anniversary of Singapore’s founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew.
This prompted him to reflect on how a nation that came of age under Mr Lee’s leadership would deal with Covid-19.
While Singapore has never faced a situation like this in its history, Singaporeans have been through many crises before, Mr Heng said.
“In our early years of nationhood, Mr Lee told us, ‘Never fear!’. We did not, and we came together as a united nation. This spirit of staying strong and united, showing resilience and caring for one another, will see us through these difficult times,” he said.
The coronavirus situation is changing rapidly, but Singapore can adapt so long as it stays alert and dynamic, he added.
The Ministry of Finance on Monday (March 23) said Mr Heng will speak on Thursday afternoon in Parliament, and the statement will subsequently be published on the Singapore Budget website. There will also be live television and radio coverage of the statement.
The House will debate this supplementary budget at a subsequent Parliament sitting, the date of which has not been announced.
Earlier this month, Mr Heng had said the Government is working on a second stimulus package on top of the $4 billion package that he announced in the Budget on Feb 18.
The aim of the additional package is to help workers keep their jobs, help small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) make the best of the crisis, and support retrenched workers.
Experts expect this package to be a hefty one, with some saying that it could be more than double the initial $6.4 billion set aside last month to cushion the economic blow from the coronavirus outbreak.