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Support package to see Singapore through next 3 to 6 months, says Chan Chun Sing

Support package to see Singapore through next 3 to 6 months, says Chan Chun Sing

Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing speaking in an interview with CNA on Mar 30, 2020.

SINGAPORE: The Government has frontloaded many of the relief measures with the aim of supporting businesses and workers through the next three to six months as the COVID-19 outbreak continues to unfold, said Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing.  

That is the “immediate priority” of the support packages that have been announced, he told CNA in an interview at The Treasury on Monday (Mar 30), adding that the Government is prepared to dish out more aid if necessary.

Singapore announced a record S$48 billion support package last week to shore up support for its economy, which is expected to fall into recession this year.

Together with the S$6.4 billion announced in Budget 2020, the Government will earmark close to S$55 billion, or about 11 per cent of its gross domestic product (GDP), for its fight against COVID-19.

READ: COVID-19 Resilience Budget: ‘Landmark’ S$48 billion package to tide Singapore through ‘unprecedented’ crisis

READ: COVID-19 Resilience Budget: ‘Landmark’ S$48 billion package to tide Singapore through ‘unprecedented’ crisis

Asked how many businesses will the newly announced supplementary Budget be able to help and for how long, Mr Chan said it is “very difficult” to estimate how many firms might go under.

“What we have done is to make sure that as many as possible survive,” he said.

“Our current focus is to make use of the current schemes and available Budget to help our workers and businesses tide through the next three to six months as an immediate priority,” he said, adding that the Government has “frontloaded many of the schemes” to help firms with their near-term cash flow needs.

“Because many places have shut down (and) many supply chains have been disrupted, for them to get the business going is very difficult. So the question is how they sustain their capability and connectivity for us as a country,” the minister added.

While a loss of capacity – the ability to sell – is a near-term challenge, the loss of company capabilities – the ability to produce – is a bigger concern, he said.

“Once the factory shuts down, then it is very hard to restart the business and even after the crisis, it (will be) very difficult for us to get the economy going again,” Mr Chan explained, citing measures such as the property tax rebates and the Jobs Support Scheme that aim to help businesses preserve capabilities.

The mammoth support package also aims to save jobs, as well as help those that may be displaced to be redeployed to other roles that are still available.

READ: Singapore’s fundamentals still strong although COVID-19 could slow foreign investments: DPM Heng

READ: Singapore’s 'bazooka' stimulus to cushion COVID-19 pain, but recession still on the cards: Economists

Beyond short-term challenges, the support packages also aim to address the longer-term issues confronting Singapore.

This includes continuing to strengthen the capabilities of local businesses and workers, such as building up digital capabilities, so that Singapore will be “the first ones off the block” when a recovery comes round, said the minister.

It is also about instilling confidence in the Singapore economy.

Said Mr Chan: “The size of the package and the depth of our reserves will give people confidence in our ability to ride out the storm and I think it has not gone unnoticed to many observers.

“And if they have to make an investment decision in due course, (Singapore) would be one of the countries that they should have confidence in.”

Mr Chan also noted that there has been “a general sense of relief” among businesses and workers that the Government is able to tap on the national reserves to dish out aid.

Nevertheless, there are lingering concerns. For instance, many companies and workers are anxious to know if they qualify for the various schemes and how soon help will arrive, said the minister.

There is also the worry about whether Singapore has enough resources to withstand a deterioration in the COVID-19 situation, he added.

READ: MAS eases monetary policy as economy reels from impact of COVID-19

READ: COVID-19: Self-employed hit by slowdown look forward to details on cash support

On that, Mr Chan said many of the new schemes do not have “existing mechanisms” in place or sufficient data to help authorities reach out to the targeted group. One such example is the self-employed.

Various government agencies are now working hard to ensure that assistance reach businesses and workers “as soon as possible”, he added.

As for concern about the availability of resources, Mr Chan said: “If there’s a need to do more and implement other plans, we will do so accordingly.”

He noted the Government efforts to “save up quietly” over the years to prepare for potential rainy days.

“We can have the confidence that because we have saved up for the rainy day, we have the depth of resources to see us through,” he said.

Source: CNA/sk(gs)

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