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Singapore

Budget measures, including CDC vouchers, to be brought forward amid global rise in prices

The S$100 CDC vouchers will be given out to every Singaporean household by the middle of May.

SINGAPORE: The Government will bring forward Budget measures to help Singapore households amid the global rise in prices, said Minister for Finance Lawrence Wong on Monday (Apr 4).

Delivering a ministerial statement on inflation and business costs in Parliament, Mr Wong said he would, where possible, bring forward the implementation of Budget measures as a result of these pressures.

The S$100 CDC Vouchers for every Singaporean household will be disbursed by the middle of next month, said Mr Wong. This is on top of the S$100 disbursed in December last year, and will help people with their daily expenses. 

The first tranche of Service and Conservancy Charges (S&CC) rebates and U-Save rebates will also be disbursed to eligible households this month, Mr Wong announced.

The rest of the U-Save and S&CC rebates will be disbursed in the coming quarters – in July and October this year, and in January next year.

Mr Wong noted that there are currently also other forms of help for households, including top-ups to the Child Development Account, Edusave Account, or Post-Secondary Education Account of every Singaporean child, as well as the GST voucher in terms of cash and Medisave top-ups. 

The Government will continue to ensure that these are disbursed to Singaporeans in a "timely manner", he said.

Help will also be extended to businesses, said Mr Wong. 

He announced that the disbursement of the Small Business Recovery Grant will be brought forward, and most eligible businesses will be able to receive the grant by June.

The grant provides up to S$10,000 for small- and medium- enterprises (SMEs) most affected by COVID-19 restrictions over the past year.

HELP FOR THE LOWER-INCOME HOUSEHOLDS

More help will also be provided for lower-income households who will be more impacted during this period of higher prices, said Mr Wong.

The Social Service Offices (SSOs) will provide a minimum duration of six months’ support for all new ComCare Short- to Medium-Term Assistance (SMTA) clients who apply between this month and September this year, he said.

“Households who are already on ComCare SMTA can also have their assistance extended for at least another three months if they require further assistance,” added Mr Wong.

“SSOs will continue to exercise flexibility to provide those in need with financial assistance and support. This includes providing ComCare recipients with more cash assistance during this period to cope with inflationary pressures.”

The Government will also do more to help lower-income groups with their public transport fares, said Mr Wong.

Previously, it disbursed Public Transport Vouchers (PTVs) to every household that received a PTV in the last exercise, including more than 30,000 ComCare beneficiaries. 

The Government will make another round of disbursements this month for these ComCare recipients, said Mr Wong.

This means that they will receive S$60 of PTVs, which will "roughly cover" the additional fares paid by a family of four this year arising from the fare increase last December. 

Besides these ComCare recipients, the PTVs are also available to all households whose monthly income per member does not exceed S$1,600. Applications for such vouchers are open from now until Oct 31.

Eligible households who had already received the first voucher, and who need a second voucher can also apply again. 

Mr Wong noted that the increase in prices over the past few months is not unique to Singapore, but is happening worldwide.

While there were initial hopes at the start of 2022 that global inflationary pressures would ease over the course of the year, it is now likely that global inflation will be higher for longer due to the war in Ukraine, said Mr Wong.

"Now, before we’ve had the chance to see through the pandemic, we are faced with yet another economic challenge. After many years of relative price stability, the recent surge of higher inflation has understandably come as a shock to many," he added.

"But when viewed against the global context and our own experience, I hope we can better understand the causes of higher prices and what we can do to manage this together."

Responding to a question from Member of Parliament Lim Wee Kiak (PAP-Sembawang) who had asked what the "threshold" was for more help to be given amid high inflation, Mr Wong said he could not provide a specific "trigger point".

"On how high inflation has to be before we see more help ... I am not able to give a specific trigger point at this. Now, we as I said, monitor a range of indicators. Not just the headline of economic growth, inflation, for that matter, unemployment, but also how it impacts on different groups, different income groups, different occupations," he said.

"And then, for that matter, what is the impact of our current package of measures which have not been implemented? We need to see that properly implemented and feed through the economy as well."

"So there are all these different considerations. And that's why we cannot so simply distil it to just one key parameter. But the assurance that we continue to give is we will monitor this very closely. And should there be a worsening ... of the situation externally and within Singapore, we will certainly stand ready to do more." 

He added that help from the Budget 2022 is coming, and that if the situation "worsens and more support is needed", the Government stands ready to do so.

"There are dark clouds over the horizon. But we will get through this together, as we have always done, as one united people."

Source: CNA/mt(mi)

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