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Tourism, transport sectors to get targeted help in response to coronavirus economic impact

SINGAPORE: The tourism and transport sectors will get targeted help from the Government to deal with the impact of the Wuhan coronavirus, Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat said on Saturday (Feb 1).

Mr Heng, who is also Finance Minister, said: "The most directly affected sectors will be transport and tourism. And for that, we need targeted measures that address the needs of this sectors." 

The full details of the measures to help these sectors will be announced during the upcoming Budget on Feb 18, Mr Heng said. 

The Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Trade and Industry said in a joint press release on Saturday that these sectors have been affected by a decline in air traffic through Changi and an increase in hotel room cancellations. 

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Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat speaking to staff at Shangri-la Rasa Sentosa. (Photo: Jalelah Abu Baker)

Speaking to reporters at Shangri-la Rasa Sentosa after meeting staff there to find out how they are dealing with the situation, Mr Heng warned of a broader slowdown across the economy. 

"For that, we will have a strong Budget in 2020," he said. 

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The Government, which is expecting a knock-on impact on related industries and firms, is prepared to support companies and workers in the event of a broad-based slowdown in the coming months, the ministries said.

This includes helping them with short-term cash flow problems,

Measures could also help firms retain and train their employees by providing some support for part of their wage costs, the ministries added. 

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Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat speaking to drivers, accompanied by NTUC Secretary-General Ng Chee Meng. (Photo: Jalelah Abu Baker)

"The Wuhan coronavirus outbreak emerged unexpectedly, amidst early signs of stabilisation in the global economy," the ministries said. 

Mr Heng, his ministry and MTI stressed that the situation is rapidly evolving. 

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"Depending on how the Wuhan coronavirus situation progresses, the impact on our economy could broaden and intensify. This will add to the uncertainties about the economy and about jobs," the ministries said. 

Even as the Government helps firms and workers get through this challenging period, it will continue to work together with tripartite partners to restructure the economy, build new enterprise capabilities, and upskill workers for the future, the ministries said. 

"As the Wuhan coronavirus situation continues to be fast developing, the Government will continue to keep a close watch on the situation and implement decisive measures as soon as needed.

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Mr Heng said that for the upcoming Budget, he had already prepared a package that took into account the economic slowdown due to the trade war between the United States and China. 

"But with this (outbreak),we are prepared to do more," he said. 

He said that many people have expressed concerns about the economy and how the situation will change. 

"I fully understand Singaporeans' concerns. And I want to assure everyone that the Government will take coordinated action of all fronts," he said. 

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Source: CNA/ic


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