SINGAPORE: The Government will waive the foreign worker levy for April and further enhance the Jobs Support Scheme, in a move to boost support for businesses during a month-long "circuit breaker" to stem the COVID-19 pandemic, said Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat.
In a Facebook post on Saturday (Apr 4), Mr Heng said the Government remains committed to protecting jobs and called on companies to "hold on" to their workers.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and the COVID-19 multi-ministry task force announced on Friday new sweeping measures, including closing schools and most workplaces, as well as disallowing dining in at food establishments.
The move came amid a rise in the number of daily new COVID-19 cases, as well as local transmissions and clusters. Singapore reported 65 new infections on Friday, taking its total to 1,114 cases and six deaths.
"We are implementing these painful but necessary measures to protect lives. The stronger the measures we adopt, the bigger the disruption and costs on businesses," said Mr Heng.
He said that he "understands" the worries of companies, who he said were likely looking at their cash flow and working out alternative arrangements over the weekend.
"This is undoubtedly a difficult month for many businesses. Additional help is on the way," said Mr Heng.
"I hope that businesses can tide through this month, hold on to your workers, and resume activities once the circuit breaker is lifted. Together, we can pull through this crisis," he added.
READ: If we need to do more, we will: PM Lee says economic challenge from COVID-19 very grave, but Government doing all it can
The further support comes after Mr Heng, who is also the finance minister, unveiled a S$48 billion Resilience Budget on Mar 26 to help workers and businesses as well as strengthen economic and social resilience.
In his initial Budget announcement on Feb 18, the minister had already pledged S$4 billion to measures aimed at stabilising the economy amid near-term uncertainties caused by COVID-19.
One of the things he plans to do is to further enhance the Jobs Support Scheme, said Mr Heng in his Facebook post.
First introduced during Budget in February, it was enhanced during the Resilience Budget last month, with the Government announcing it would co-fund between 25 per cent and 75 per cent of every local employee’s wages, depending on the industry.
The Government has said repeatedly that it is ready to do more on the economic front if the COVID-19 situation in Singapore deteriorates, and that it has the resources to do so.
Mr Heng will announce the details of the additional support in a ministerial statement in Parliament on Monday.
On Tuesday, the Government will also pass legislation in Parliament to ensure that previously announced property tax rebates are passed through to tenants.