Singapore Budget 2021: S$11b Covid-19 Resilience Package to fund immediate public health measures, still-ailing sectors

Even as some support measures such as the Jobs Support Scheme (JSS) will continue for some sectors, other schemes announced last year to keep the economy afloat will also cease. — TODAY pic
Even as some support measures such as the Jobs Support Scheme (JSS) will continue for some sectors, other schemes announced last year to keep the economy afloat will also cease. — TODAY pic

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SINGAPORE, Feb 16 — A new S$11 billion (RM33.5 billion) Covid-19 Resilience Package has been launched to address Singapore’s immediate needs to safeguard public health and provide targeted support to workers and sectors that are still under stress, while some of the relief schemes unveiled last year will be allowed to lapse.

Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat announced the Covid-19 Resilience Package in his Budget speech today, noting that while the Singapore economy is projected to grow between 4 per cent and 6 per cent this year, this will be unevenly distributed, as some parts of the economy continue to be battered by the Covid-19 pandemic.  

Safeguarding public health 

To continue efforts in curbing the spread of the coronavirus, Heng, who is also Finance Minister, said S$4.8 billion of the package will be dedicated towards public health and safe-reopening measures. These include expanding the nation-wide vaccination programme and maintaining existing precautionary measures, contact tracing system, testing regime and safe distancing requirements. 

 “Vaccinating our people is key. We started our vaccination programme late last year. As at February 14 this year, close to 250,000 people have received their first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine, of which 55,000 have also received their second dose,” Heng said.

“I strongly urge Singaporeans and residents who are medically eligible to take the vaccine when your turn comes.”

Support for workers and businesses

·      JSS extension 

The Job Support Scheme (JSS) — under which companies received subsidies for at least 10 per cent of the wages they paid out for most of 2020 — will be extended, but only for sectors that are still affected by the economic disruption brought about by the global pandemic. Companies in the aerospace, aviation and tourism sectors will continue to receive wage support until September 2021, a six-month extension from the current March 31 expiry date. 

The Government will subsidise 30 per cent of wages that the companies in these sectors will have to pay their staff between April and June this year. The subsidy will be given out in September 2021. 

They will then receive 10 per cent support for wages to be paid out from July to September this year. The subsidy will be disbursed in December. These companies are currently receiving 50 per cent in wage subsidies. JSS will also be extended by three months for firms in the retail, food services, built environment and arts and culture sectors. They are currently receiving 30 per cent subsidies until March this year. For wages to be credited between April and June 2021, these firms will receive 10 per cent subsidies, which will be paid out in September. JSS support will cease thereafter for firms in these sectors. For all other sectors still receiving help, JSS support will not be extended after March 31. 

Heng said the JSS extension for the selected sectors will cost S$700 million. He added that the Government has committed over S$25 billion in wage subsidies, which has helped over 155,000 employers for up to 17 months so far. 

·      SGUnited Jobs and Skills Package

Heng also said that he will allocate an additional S$5.4 billion to the SGUnited Jobs and Skills package. This is on top of the S$3 billion channelled to a whole range of schemes that seek to create jobs and traineeships opportunities for Singaporeans last year. Out of the S$5.4 billion, S$5.2 billion will be set aside for the Jobs Growth Initiative, which has been extended by seven months to September 2021. The scheme provides companies with up to one year of salary support from the Government from the month each new local was hired since September last year.Older workers, those with disabilities and ex-offenders will be given 1.5 years of salary support. Other programmes for fresh graduates and mid-career workers under the SGUnited series, where the Government provides training allowance, will also be extended for one more year until March 31, 2022. 

Heng said the next phase of SGUnited Jobs and Skills package aims to create 200,000 jobs, 35,000 traineeships and training opportunities this year. Since its launch in May until the end of last year, nearly 76,000 people were placed in jobs, traineeships, attachments and skills training, he added.

Support for hard-hit sectors

With global travel unlikely to recover as international borders remain close, Heng said the Government will provide S$870 million to support the aviation sector in this year’s Budget. Heng said that total passenger movements at Changi Airport were only about 2 per cent of pre-Covid-19 levels at the end of January this year. “I expect the aviation sector to use this lull to sustain and upgrade its capabilities, and to prepare for the recovery,” he said. To help the arts and culture and sports sectors, Heng said the Government will set aside S$45 million to help support businesses and self-employed individuals in these sectors. Last year, the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth rolled out a S$55 million Arts and Culture Resilience Package and a S$50 million Sports Resilience Package. For the land transport sector, S$133 million will be allocated to the Covid-19 Driver Relief Fund, which replaced the Special Relief Fund for taxi and private hire car drivers from January this year. 

Relief schemes that were not extended in budget 2021

·      Working capital loan for small- and -medium-sized companies under the Enterprise Financing Scheme (ends March 31, 2021)

·      Loan/insurance premiums payouts deferment for individuals (ends June 30, 2021)

·      Loan deferment for businesses (ends either March 31 or June 30, 2021, depending on the sector)   

·      Covid-19 Support Grant (ended Dec 31, 2020)

·      Self-Employed Person Income Relief Scheme (ended Dec 31, 2020)

—   TODAY

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