More than $2 billion set aside to support struggling businesses

More than $2 billion will be set aside to support workers and businesses grappling with the impact of tighter Covid-19 restrictions since May, Finance Minister Lawrence Wong announced yesterday, as he said the latest period of heightened alert is not expected to derail Singapore's economic recovery.

He acknowledged that the domestic, consumer-facing sectors, such as retail and food and beverage (F&B), will continue to face challenges but said Singapore remains on track to achieve growth of 4 per cent to 6 per cent this year.

Mr Wong was giving a statement in Parliament shortly before he introduced the Supplementary Supply Bill to effect the reallocation of funds for the measures.

The latest round of support measures for the current phase two (heightened alert) period was announced by the Ministry of Finance last Friday. The measures include rental relief for hawkers and eligible businesses as well as enhanced wage support under the Jobs Support Scheme (JSS). It is expected to cost up to $1.1 billion.

This will be financed by the reallocation of funds, in keeping with Singapore's principles of fiscal responsibility and prudence, said Mr Wong.

The bulk of the amount, about $0.9 billion, will come from operating and development expenditures that will not be used owing to delays caused by the pandemic.

The remaining amount will be covered by the buffer of $0.2 billion already provided for as part of the supplementary estimates presented early this month.

JSS support will be raised to 60 per cent for sectors - such as F&B, sports, performing arts and arts education - that have to close or suspend most activities.

Support will go up to 40 per cent for those significantly affected by restrictions, such as the retail and tourism sectors, cinema operators and family entertainment centres.

The wage support will taper to 10 per cent as businesses reopen, from Aug 19 to 31.

To help other workers affected by the tightened curbs, the temporary Covid-19 Recovery Grant will be made available until Aug 31. - THE STRAITS TIMES