Singapore rolls out US$8.3b virus relief in budget

Singapore has unveiled a S$11 billion (US$8.3 billion) coronavirus resilience package in the 2021 budget announced today.

It aims to tackle the “immediate tasks” of continuing the fight against the pandemic, said the Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat, Channel News Asia reports.

A Jobs Support Scheme, which helps retain jobs by subsidising workers’ salaries, will be extended for sectors which continue to be hit by the pandemic.

The package will focus on three prongs: continuing to support workers and businesses, safeguarding public health and providing targeted help to sectors that are still under stress.

Heng noted that budget measures announced last year helped prevent “deep economic scarring and permanent impairing” of Singapore’s economy. In particular, the JSS was meant to protect jobs and help firms retain local workers.

The JSS, which was first introduced in the budget 2020 statement last February, has subsidized between 25 and 75 percent of wages for firms. This is the fourth extension of the scheme, and will cost the government another S$700 million.

“So far, we have committed over S$25 billion to the JSS, and supported over 155,000 employers for up to 17 months. The current tranche will continue to cover wages up to March 2021 for most sectors,” Heng said.

But he noted that even as the economy is recovering, some sectors remain under stress, which is why the Government will “tailor support to maintain resilience and support growing areas”.

For starters, firms in Tier 1 sectors – aviation, aerospace and tourism – will get a six-month extension for the JSS. These firms will get 30 per cent support for wages paid from April to June this year, and 10 per cent support for wages paid from July to September.

Firms in Tier 2 sectors – such as retail, food services, arts and culture, and marine and offshore – will get wage support of 10 per cent for three more months, covering wages paid up to June.

But there will be no changes for firms in Tier 3A sectors, which are generally recovering, Heng said. The JSS will cover 10 per cent of wages up to March for firms in these sectors, as previously announced.

The COVID-19 Resilience Package will also fund the COVID-19 Recovery Grant, which supports workers who lost their jobs or suffered “significant income loss”.

Applications opened on January 18 this year and as of February 15, more than 5,000 applications have been approved, Heng, said.

About S$4.8 billion of the package will also go towards safeguarding public health and ensuring the safe reopening of Singapore’s economy.

On Monday, the Ministry of Trade and Industry said ti will maintained its growth forecast for 2021 at 4 to 6 percent after an improved earlier estimate for last year’s gross domestic product.

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