SINGAPORE, May 26 — Singapore Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat today introduced the nation’s fourth budget so far this year, known as the ‘Fortitude Budget’, laying out an extra S$33 billion (RM101 billion) in spending — including a significant “contingent sum” to respond quickly to changing situations — as Singapore enters the next phase of its fight against Covid-19.
The latest statement to Parliament by Heng, who is also Finance Minister, follows the S$10.9 billion Unity Budget on Feb 18, which was the regular annual Budget. Then, as the Covid-19 crisis deepened worldwide, came the S$48 billion Resilience Budget on March 26 followed by the S$5.1 billion Solidarity Budget on April 6.
Altogether, the Republic will have dedicated S$92.9 billion — about 20 per cent of the value of Singapore’s economic output each year — to combat the economic fallout from the virus.
Governments around the world are having to commit similarly large sums, as a proportion of their economic size, to address the unfolding economic disaster, being likened by some in its potential impact to the Depression of about a century ago — the worst global economic event of the 20th century, and far worse than the global financial crisis of 2008.
“This is a landmark package, and a necessary response to an unprecedented crisis,” said Mr Heng. The Government has previously indicated it will need to draw on the national reserves to a significant extent, a measure which, under Singapore’s Constitution, requires the approval of President Halimah Yacob.
Heng said the key focus of this round of fiscal measures will be jobs, with S$3.8 billion directed at enhancing the Jobs Support Scheme for the extended circuit breaker period.
Another feature of the Fortitude Budget is a bigger “contingent sum” to help the Government deal with future events down the line.
Said Heng: “We are dealing with unprecedented uncertainty, across all fronts. A bigger contingent sum will allow us to respond swiftly to fast-changing situations.”
More details on this sum will be given later in his speech.
“This Budget will continue to support workers and businesses who remain affected by border closures and safe distancing measures,” he said.
“Given the significant changes in the global economy ahead, we will provide support to enable our businesses and workers to adapt, transform and seize new opportunities, to emerge stronger,” he said.
Besides bolstering jobs, additional support will be given to households and the community to cope with the disruption caused by Covid-19 and help them seize new opportunities that may emerge amid the adversity, he added.
Additional funding will also be provided to frontline agencies, helping to boost Singapore’s clinical management of Covid-19 cases and its testing and swabbing capabilities, said Heng. — TODAY