Singapore on Tuesday announced another SGD 33 billion ($23.2 billion) supplementary budget aimed primarily at helping workers and businesses to tide over the COVID-19 crisis and the bleak economic outlook ahead.
The deadly virus has so far infected 32,343 people and claimed 23 lives in Singapore.
Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat said the Fortitude Budget, fourth in less than four months, sets aside SGD 2.9 billion to extend job protection, including enhancements to the Job Support Scheme that co-pays salaries to help firms retain workers.
It also provides for the SGD 3.8 billion that went towards measures announced on April 21 to tide Singaporeans over the four-week extension to the 'circuit breaker' to control the spread of coronavirus by limiting people movements.
Heng, who is also the finance minister, had earlier unveiled the SGD 6.4 billion Unity Budget in February, the SGD 48 billion Resilience Budget in March and the SGD 5.1 billion Solidarity Budget in early April. The government had topped up a further SGD 3.8 billion for the Solidarity Budget in the same month.
"Together with the Unity, Resilience and Solidarity budgets, the government has dedicated close to SGD 100 billion or nearly 20 per cent of the GDP to support Singaporeans in this battle against COVID-19," Heng said. He called it a "landmark" package and a necessary response to an unprecedented crisis.
Singapore's economy has been deeply impacted by the global shocks caused by the coronavirus pandemic, Heng told Parliament while unveiling the latest Budget. He noted that the resident unemployment rate rose to 3.3 per cent in March, the highest in over a decade.
According to the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI), the gross domestic product (GDP) of Singapore is expected to shrink between 4% and 7% this year, down from the previous projected range of a contraction between 1% and 4%.
Heng assured that the government will protect every worker and try to preserve jobs in the midst of this crisis.
The foreign worker levy waiver and rebate will also be extended for up to two months for businesses not allowed to resume operations on-site immediately after the circuit breaker is lifted on. This includes all firms in the construction, marine and offshore, and process sectors, he said.
Heng said the law ministry will introduce a Bill next week mandating that landlords contribute by granting a rental waiver to their small and medium-sized enterprises (SME) tenants who have suffered a significant revenue drop in the past few months
As a landlord, the government will also lead by example by providing two more months of rental waivers for commercial tenants and hawkers, and one more month of rental waiver for industrial, office and agricultural tenants, he said.
However, the minister said while the government will try to preserve jobs in the midst of this crisis, it cannot protect every job.
At the same time, he said, "You have my assurance that the government will protect every worker".
"Our promise to workers is this: As long as you are willing to pick up new skills and adapt, to access available opportunities to work or learn, the government will provide our strongest support to help you," The Straits Times quoted Heng as saying.