Jobs will be key part of fourth support package: DPM Heng

President Halimah gives in-principle support to draw on past reserves for Fortitude Budget

The Government had earlier announced three Covid-19 support packages amounting to $63.7 billion.
The Government had earlier announced three Covid-19 support packages amounting to $63.7 billion.ST PHOTO: GIN TAY

Jobs will be a key part of the fourth Covid-19 support package that will be announced today, said Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat.

Naming it the Fortitude Budget, he said in a Facebook post yesterday that while the Jobs Support Scheme has helped many employers retain their staff, some workers have lost their jobs or are worried that they might be retrenched.

"Those in your 40s and 50s are more anxious. We will help you turn anxiety into action," said Mr Heng, who will announce details of the measures in Parliament today.

The Government will support people to learn and upskill, create new jobs for those who are seeking employment, and create traineeships and other opportunities for those completing their post-secondary education this year, he added.

President Halimah Yacob yesterday said she has given her in-principle support for the Government to draw on past reserves for the support package.

In a Facebook post, she said DPM Heng and his team had briefed her and the Council of Presidential Advisers (CPA) on the package. "This is the fourth Budget within two months into the new financial year, and the second time past reserves are tapped for the Government's Covid-19 response," she noted.

The President had earlier given her support to draw about $21 billion from the reserves to fund previously announced measures.

The coronavirus crisis is unprecedented, she noted, with significant uncertainties in the global economy.

Referring to the gradual easing of restrictions after the circuit breaker ends on June 1, she said: "Lives and livelihoods continue to be at stake. It is critical that we reopen safely, so economic activities will remain slow even as we try to restart them.

"Having deliberated and considered the recommendation of the CPA, I am satisfied that the fourth support package is necessary to ensure a safe transition to this new normal for Singapore," she said.

Mr Heng said that as Singapore reopens its economy in phases, the Government will continue to support viable businesses - especially those unable to open immediately.

 
 

The fourth package will also provide more support for the social sector, so agencies can continue to help the vulnerable and better mobilise Singaporeans to contribute their time and monies as the pandemic continues, he added.

"The decision to use our past reserves has not been an easy one - we deliberated long and hard on this. Our past reserves were hard earned, and we have the responsibility of making every dollar count," said Mr Heng, who is also Finance Minister.

The Government had earlier announced three Covid-19 support packages amounting to $63.7 billion. Measures included the Jobs Support Scheme, which subsidises wages for local workers.

The first Unity Budget on Feb 18 saw $6.4 billion set aside.

On March 26, Mr Heng added $48.4 billion to the effort in a supplementary Resilience Budget.

On April 6, he announced a further $5.1 billion in support measures under the Solidarity Budget. This was followed by a further $3.8 billion to extend some measures during the extended circuit breaker.

Mr Heng said early generations of Singaporeans had shown fortitude, and this trait of courage in adversity has helped Singapore defy the odds of survival to unite as one people, grow the economy and secure its place in the world.

 

Each generation has its own trials and tribulations, he said, and the Covid-19 pandemic is Singapore's biggest crisis since independence.

"Our generation must have courage in adversity, to adapt and to emerge stronger, just like our founding generation. This is why I have named the upcoming budget Fortitude," said Mr Heng.

"Moving forward with Fortitude - as we stay United as one people, remain Resilient in the face of adversity and stand in Solidarity with one another."

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 26, 2020, with the headline 'Jobs will be key part of fourth support package: DPM Heng'. Subscribe