SINGAPORE - All Singaporean households can now collect $100 worth of Community Development Council (CDC) vouchers to spend at more than 16,000 participating heartland merchants and hawkers.
In addition, $200 more in vouchers will be disbursed in early 2023, and another $200 in 2024, with major supermarkets roped in for the next two years.
The latest vouchers will benefit up to 1.22 million Singaporean households. They can be collected digitally from Wednesday (May 11), and can be used until Dec 31 together with the vouchers released last year.
Finance Minister Lawrence Wong, who announced the scheme at Budget 2022 as part of the $560 million Household Support Package, launched the scheme at Tampines West Community Club on Wednesday. He was joined by the five mayors - Ms Low Yen Ling, Ms Denise Phua, Mr Desmond Choo, Mr Alex Yam and Mr Fahmi Aliman - who also chair the CDCs in their districts.
The latest round of vouchers comes less than five months after CDC Vouchers 2021 was rolled out on Dec 13 last year to defray daily expenses and support heartland merchants and hawkers hit by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Speaking at Wednesday's launch, Mr Wong said that the original plan was to implement this year's CDC Vouchers in the second half of the year, after the earlier tranche of vouchers had been fully utilised. However, he decided to bring it forward as many Singaporeans are concerned about their daily expenses and the impact of rising prices due to the ongoing war in Ukraine.
He noted that prices have been increasing worldwide both because of the Ukraine war and the continued shipping and supply chain disruptions caused by the pandemic.
"Even countries that are oil and gas exporters are facing higher prices, let alone a small and open economy like Singapore that imports almost everything we consume," he said.
"So we do have to brace ourselves for higher prices for some time. But rest assured that the Government will continue to do our utmost to help cushion the impact for Singaporeans, especially for our lower- and middle-income families.
"In particular, we will continue to monitor the global situation, and will not hesitate to take further action to help households and businesses if the situation worsens."
While the vouchers are a small gesture of support for Singaporeans in a time of rising prices, Mr Wong noted that the Government is also providing other forms of assistance.
The first tranche of service and conservancy charges (S&CC) and GST Voucher (GSTV) U-Save utilities rebates was disbursed last month.
Another three rounds will be disbursed in July, October and next January. The payouts are part of the enhanced permanent GSTV scheme and Household Support Package announced at Budget 2022 to defray GST and other living expenses.
This means that those living in four-room HDB flats will receive rebates worth about four months of their utility bills and 2½ months of their S&CC for the whole of financial year 2022, said Mr Wong.
Calling the CDC vouchers scheme a resounding success, he said that to date, in less than five months, more than 1.1 million households, or 93 per cent of all Singaporean households, have claimed their 2021 vouchers.
The use rate of the vouchers has also been positive, with close to $85m spent over this period, representing 70 per cent of the total amount of vouchers allocated. Utilisation continues to increase day by day, he added.
As with the last tranche, only one family member is required to login to his Singpass account to claim the CDC vouchers on behalf of his household here.
Upon signing up, a link for the CDC vouchers will be sent to the registered mobile phone number of the claimant, who can share the vouchers with other household members via the same link.
Residents can find the list of participating merchants near them here. Merchants will also display the CDC voucher decal.
Digital ambassadors at various community centres and existing SG Digital Community Hubs will provide assistance for residents who need help. Residents without smartphones or who need to set up their Singpass or reset their Singpass password will also be assisted. Where needed, there will also be the option of printing hardcopy vouchers.
Ms Low, chairman of the Mayors’ Committee and mayor of South West district, said that half of those who claimed the 2021 digital vouchers have spent all the given amount in under five months.
Hawkers and merchants who were digitally less savvy have overcome their fear of technology, with many reporting satisfaction with the easy use of RedeemSG and faster reimbursements, she added.
Mr Yeo Hiang Meng, president of the Federation of Merchants’ Associations (FMAS), told The Straits Times that the CDC vouchers provided an important revenue source for heartland businesses during the Covid-19 pandemic, and even as the economy gradually recovers from it.
He added: “For those who are hesitant, FMAS would like to encourage these heartland businesses to come on board the programme to boost their income.
“FMAS can help our heartland businesses overcome technical difficulties if this is their concern. With current and future tranches of the CDC vouchers, this is an opportunity to be seized now.”
Mr Noelle Kok, who owns Noelle’s Grandma Cookies selling pastries and bubble tea at Bishan Street 11, said the CDC scheme helped small merchants like him to increase sales, especially during the Chinese New Year period.
“Voucher transactions have dropped to up to three daily, as I think most customers have used up their vouchers,” he said. “Everyone is looking forward to the next batch of vouchers.”
Madam Jean Eng, a 50-year-old part-time waitress, used up her old vouchers buying hawker food. The Queenstown resident said she is relieved that the vouchers come at a time when everyone is facing the pressure of rising costs.
She said: “I hope more merchants can participate in the scheme, including heartland shops selling groceries, so I can spend the vouchers on basic necessities.”
Singaporeans may also be able to donate their CDC vouchers to charities and philanthropic causes eventually.
On Monday, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Edwin Tong said the vouchers use the RedeemSG platform developed by GovTech's Open Government Products.
"It is currently used by some organisations, and is being developed to cater to a wider range of needs that could be used by various organisations, such as government agencies and charities, and for philanthropic causes," Mr Tong said in a written reply to a parliamentary question.