Budget 2020 includes new measures 'not on the table' a month ago: Heng Swee Keat

Budget 2020 includes new measures 'not on the table' a month ago: Heng Swee Keat

Budget speech binder posted by Heng Swee Keat
Budget 2020 will be delivered on Feb 18, 2020 by Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat. (Photo: Facebook / Heng Swee Keat)

SINGAPORE: The 2020 Singapore Budget will include measures that were "not on the table one month ago", in response to the ongoing COVID-19 situation, Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat said on Monday (Feb 17).

"Usually, we try to settle the details as early as possible. This year, we could not, because of the COVID-19 outbreak," Mr Heng said in a Facebook post.

Officers at the Ministry of Finance (MOF) have been putting in extra hours to track the situation, garner suggestions from the ground and come up with targeted support measures, he said. 

Writing ahead of the Budget Speech on Tuesday, Mr Heng - who is also Finance Minister - said that without Singapore's reserves - both financial and otherwise - Singapore would have been much worse off.

"My team and I would not be able to spend the last few weeks working on the stabilisation and support measures," he said. "We would instead be lying awake trying to project the negative impact of the outbreak, how much of a hit we are going to suffer, rather than what we can do to stabilise our economy and support our people."

READ: Package to help households with cost of living to be announced at Budget amid COVID-19 outbreak

"DEEP RESERVES"

Singapore could act "quickly and decisively" over the COVID-19 outbreak because of the country's "deep reserves", he said. These reserves are not just financial ones, he said, but also less tangible ones such as strength and resilience.

"I do not mean only our financial reserves - which give us the ability and confidence to respond robustly to unexpected situations," he said. "I also mean the reserves of strength, resilience, empathy, and resourcefulness among our public servants and fellow Singaporeans."

"If we did not possess such qualities, we could not stay united through this crisis and emerge stronger."

He asked Singaporeans to look at the disease outbreak as a "spur and a test".

"It spurs us to do our best for Singaporeans, who are themselves doing their best for their families and those around them," he said. "It is a test for us to show that we can rise to the challenge, and be worthy of the generations who came before us, and future generations to come."

Mr Heng's remarks come as the country contends with an ongoing COVID-19 outbreak amid a dampened economic outlook. Singapore on Monday downgraded its 2020 growth estimate to a range of -0.5 per cent to 1.5 per cent.

READ: Singapore cuts 2020 GDP forecast range to -0.5% to 1.5% due to COVID-19 outbreak

READ: Coronavirus cases in Singapore: Trends, clusters and key numbers to watch

As of Sunday, 75 people have tested positive for the novel coronavirus in Singapore.

The country raised its Disease Outbreak Response System Condition (DORSCON) level to Orange earlier this month, prompting additional precautionary measures.

On Sunday, the Deputy Prime Minister said that a package to help households with the cost of living would be introduced as part of this year's Budget, as he sought to reassure Singaporeans that the Government is mobilising its full resources to tackle the COVID-19 situation.

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Source: CNA/nc(hm)

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