Singapore allocates $4bn to support virus-hit economy

Singapore’s government sets aside $575m to fight the spread of the coronavirus, along with other stimulus measures.

Singapore masks
Singapore, which has the highest number of coronavrius cases outside of China, is at risk of falling into a recession due to the outbreak, its government has said [File: Feline Lim/Reuters]

Singapore unveiled a series of support packages in its budget Tuesday to help cushion the economy against the coronavirus outbreak and job risks.

Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat said he will set aside S$800 million ($575 million) to fight the spread of the coronavirus outbreak, and provide two economic support packages totaling S$5.6 billion ($4bn) to support businesses and consumers.

“This year we usher in a new decade, one marked by tectonic shifts in our operating environment, and major uncertainties,” Heng said in his budget speech in Parliament. The government is putting in every effort to “slow down the spread of the virus,” he said.

The bulk of the S$800 million support to fight the coronavirus will go to the Health Ministry. Of the S$5.6 billion economic support, S$4 billion will primarily go toward supporting businesses with wage costs. The rest will assist consumers by offering “additional, timely help to more households with cost of living,” especially for lower-income families.

Singapore had been planning additional support for businesses hit by the ongoing U.S.-China trade war before the coronavirus outbreak set in earlier this year. The city state, which has more than 70 confirmed cases of the virus, downgraded its growth outlook on Monday as it braces for an economic impact that’s worse than the 2003 SARS pandemic.

The coronavirus package announced Tuesday dwarfs the S$230 million stimulus the government rolled out in the wake of the SARS outbreak in 2003.

The government still plans to raise the goods-and-services tax by 2025, but won’t increase it next year, Heng said. He outlined an enhanced package of subsidies, worth S$6 billion, to support consumers when the GST increase does take effect. The majority of Singaporean families will receive offsets of at least five years’ worth to cover GST expenses. Lower- and middle-income Singaporeans and retirees remain eligible for additional support.

Source: Bloomberg