$1.4b used from contingency fund to pay for Covid-19 stabilisation phase support schemes: Lawrence Wong

The Government introduced a host of tighter Covid-19 measures, including allowing only groups of two to dine in, under the stabilisation phase in September. ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

SINGAPORE - The Ministry of Finance has taken an advance from a contingency fund to pay for $1.4 billion worth of measures rolled out to help workers and businesses from Sept 27 to Nov 21 as Singapore worked to bring down Covid-19 cases.

Finance Minister Lawrence Wong, announcing this in a Facebook post on Thursday (Dec 9), added that the Government tapped the Contingencies Fund to ensure the timely roll-out of the support measures.

He said that the Government did not have to draw on Singapore's past reserves to fund the measures as its revenues have turned out to be higher than expected this year.

The Government had set aside $13 billion in Budget 2020 in the Contingencies Fund and Development Contingencies Fund, set up for urgent, unforeseen expenditures.

Under the Constitution, Parliament can create the funds to pay for unexpected requirements which are not provided for in the Supply Act, which controls the amount of money that the Government may spend in a given financial year.

The President must consent to any advances from the Contingencies Fund.

Mr Wong, citing this, said: "We had raised this matter with President Halimah Yacob earlier, and she has given her concurrence."

He added that at a later date, the Government will introduce a Supplementary Supply Bill in Parliament to replace the advances. Parliament's approval is required for the use of more money in a financial year after the Budget is passed.

Singapore entered a stabilisation phase on Sept 27 as Covid-19 cases climbed, putting in place restrictions on social gatherings and dining at food and beverage establishments. The phase was meant to end after Oct 24, but with hospital and intensive care unit beds still at close to full occupancy then, the phase was extended until Nov 21.

To help workers and businesses tide over the period, some $1.4 billion worth of support measures were rolled out, including wage subsidies for firms in badly hit sectors such as food and beverage, retail and tourism.

"As we press on together, I want to thank all public officers and agencies across the whole of Government who have worked tirelessly throughout the pandemic. Your efforts - in every agency and every capacity - have been invaluable, and have made a big impact," said Mr Wong in his post.

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