On 26 March, the Singapore government announced an additional stimulus package of SGD 48 billion (USD 33.6 billion), on top of SGD 6.4 billion (USD 4.5 billion) announced in the 2020 Budget in February to support Singaporean citizens and local businesses during the ongoing Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak. The total of SGD 55 billion is more than double the previous largest stimulus of SGD 20.5 billion (USD 14.4 billion) announced in 2009 to deal with the global financial crisis.
The aviation and tourism sectors have been most badly affected, as international visitor arrivals to Singapore have nearly ground to a halt. Consumer-facing sectors such as food services, retail trade, and land transport have been significantly affected. In addition, outward-oriented sectors such as manufacturing and wholesale trade have also been affected, as external demand falls and supply chains are facing disruptions. Some of the measures announced by the government to counter the impact include:
- A total of SGD 15.1 billion (USD 10.6 billion) will be allocated to support more than 1.9 million local employees through government co-funding of wages of upto 25% for every local worker in employment, with monthly qualifying wage ceiling raised from SGD 3,600 (USD 2,520) to SGD 4,600 (USD 3,220). Firms in the food services sector will receive higher support, at 50% of wages, and firms in the aviation and tourism sectors, which are the most badly affected sectors, will be supported at 75% of wages. SGD 1.2 billion (USD 140 million is being allocated to support self employed persons and an additional SGD 48 million (USD 34 million) for training for the self-employed.
- The government will set aside SGD 90 million (USD 63 million) to help the tourism industry rebound strongly, when the time is right. A SGD 350 million (USD 245 million) enhanced aviation support package is being introduced to fund measures such as rebates on landing and parking charges, and rental relief for airlines, ground handlers, and cargo agents.
- There is a range of measures announced to alleviate SMEs’ cash flow concerns through enhancement of various financing schemes, such as the Enterprise Financing Scheme – SME Working Capital Loan, Loan Insurance Scheme and the Temporary Bridging Loan Programme. Concurrently, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) is working with banks and insurers to see how best to help businesses and individuals facing cash flow challenges with their loan obligations and insurance premium payments.
- The government is introducing the SGUnited Traineeships programme to provide young people with opportunities to gain valuable work experience, while giving an added boost for employers to emerge stronger from this crisis. Under this programme, Workforce Singapore (WSG) will co-share manpower costs with enterprises that offer traineeships targeted at local first-time jobseekers this year. The government is looking to support up to 8,000 traineeships this year, across both large and small enterprises. This will include science and technology traineeships in R&D labs, deep tech startups, accelerators, and incubators.
- The government is launching the SGUnited Jobs initiative to create about 10,000 jobs over the next one year. The public sector will take the lead, recruiting for long-term roles in the public service and sectoral partner institutions, in areas such as social services, early childhood education, and ICT, so that we can enhance our provision of essential services. The government will also offer short-term, temporary jobs to handle the increase in COVID-19 related operations, such as health declaration assistants, temporary management support officers etc. At the same time, the government is working with the Singapore Business Federation and other Trade Associations and Chambers to identify private sector job opportunities.
- For 2020, qualifying commercial properties that have been more badly affected by the COVID-19 outbreak, including hotels, serviced apartments, tourist attractions, shops, and restaurants, will pay no Property Tax. Businesses in other non-residential properties such as offices and industrial properties will receive a Property Tax Rebate of 30% for the year 2020.
- All government fees and charges will be frozen by one year, from 1 April 2020 to 31 March 2021.
(Sources: Ministry of Finance, Singapore; Straits Times; Channel NewsAsia)