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VIRUS OUTBREAK

Wage support, tax rebates, rental waivers and more in Budget's Covid-19 relief measures

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In a sneak preview of what are going to be unveiled at the upcoming Budget, Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat announced that there would be broad-based measures to support viable companies as well as help workers stay in their jobs.

Singapore

IN A sneak preview of what are going to be unveiled at the upcoming Budget to counter the adverse economic impact from the coronavirus outbreak, Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat announced that there would be broad-based measures to support viable companies as well as help workers stay in their jobs.

Among the slew of programmes outlined in a video message on Sunday by Mr Heng are wage support to help preserve jobs for local workers as well as tax rebates and rental waivers to help with the companies' cash flow.

In the heads-up on the Budget to be delivered on Tuesday, Mr Heng, who is also the Deputy Prime Minister, said there will also be more support for sectors that have been harder hit by the Covid-19 outbreak, including the food and beverage (F&B) and retail industries.

Firms and workers making the best use of this period to restructure, train, and upgrade will also get support from the government, said Mr Heng in the video recording made at Kallang Fire Station, where he met Singapore Civil Defence Force front-line officers.

Apart from businesses and workers, households will also get relief to help with their cost of living.

"I assure you as Finance Minister that this government will do all that is necessary to get workers and companies hit hard by this global health crisis back on their feet. With all these additional support measures, you have my assurance that we will rebound from this. Never fear."

These measures, details of which are to be unveiled on Budget Day, are meant to address the concerns that workers and firms may have arising from the adverse economic impact of the outbreak.

Singapore reported its first case of the pneumonia-like infectious disease on Jan 23, followed by the first locally transmitted cases on Feb 4.

The hit on Singapore's economy is expected to be broad-based, impacting sectors including tourism, manufacturing, retail, F&B and transport.

Mr Heng noted in the video message that businesses and consumers could cut back on spending because of dented confidence.

In fact, after Singapore had elevated the outbreak alert level to Orange on Feb 7, consumers have largely avoided going out.

The Restaurant Association of Singapore, an organisation representing restaurants, caterers, fast food outlets and food courts, publicly appealed for help last week as businesses saw their takings plummet by as much as 80 per cent.

Already suffering from two straight years of decline since 2018, retail sales in Singapore are expected to be weak this year amid novel coronavirus pressures. The Singapore Retailers Association (SRA) told BT on Friday that, based on data collected from its members, sales have fallen by 50 per cent on average, and for those in tourist spots, the drop can be up to 80 per cent. The SRA has also requested for government help, such as in foreign worker levies and rental aid.

For tourism and transport, Mr Heng said targeted measures have been taken to support them.

The Singapore Tourism Board has earlier estimated that international visitor arrivals might fall by 25 to 30 per cent this year, with tourism receipts declining accordingly. A task force comprising public and private sector leaders will come up with strategies and plans for recovery.

On the other hand, private-hire drivers and cabbies will be able to tap a S$77 million package co-funded by the government.

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