SINGAPORE — Over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, Singapore has unveiled a slew of comprehensive financial measures to deal with the most severe economic challenge since its independence.
In 2020, the government unveiled four Budgets totalling almost $100 billion to support businesses, workers and households in Singapore. The Unity Budget ($6.4 billion), the Resilience ($48.4 billion), the Solidarity ($5.1 billion) Budget and the Fortitude Budget ($33 billion) were unprecedented in scope.
The following year’s Budget, Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat unveiled similar measures, this time primarily aimed at positioning Singapore to progress in the post-pandemic world.
A year ago, Singapore entered into the circuit breaker lasting almost two months. As it continues to be in Phase 3 of its reopening, here is a recap of some of the key Budget measures this financial year:
Businesses and workers
The Singapore government is setting aside $11 billion from its 2021 Budget to address the country's immediate public health needs, support its workers and businesses, as well as help sectors that are still under stress amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
About $4.8 billion from the package would be put towards public health and safe re-opening measures.
While the pandemic has had a massive adverse impact on many businesses, the degree to which they have been affected varies.
The Jobs Support Scheme (JSS) has been extended to the most hard-hit sectors, with the extension costing $700 million. Over $25 billion had already been spent on the JSS when Heng announced the measure.
Tier 1 sectors – aviation, aerospace and tourism – will have their JSS support extended by six months. Firms in these sectors will get 30 per cent support for wages paid between April and June, and 10 per cent support for wages paid from July to September.
For firms in Tier 2 sectors – including retail, arts and culture, food services and built environment – the JSS will be extended at 10 per cent wage support for three months, up to June. The additional JSS support for firms that have shown good recovery in the pandemic ended in March.
Businesses can also tap a $24 billion package to transform their capabilities and capitalise on opportunities in the post-pandemic world. The funds will help them gain access to capital for innovation and business transformation, and scale up jobs.
Another measure to help businesses is the enhanced tax loss carry-back relief to let them carry back qualifying deductions incurred in the three years of assessment prior to the current one. This helps businesses hurt by the pandemic to improve their cashflow positions.
The aviation sector is also getting a boost to the tune of $870 million with measures such as landing charge rebates for airlines scheduling their passenger flights to Singapore and rental rebates for ground handling companies with facilities at Changi Airport and Seletar Airport.
An additional $5.4 billion will be allocated to a second tranche of the SGUnited Jobs and Skills package. This is on top of the $3 billion allocated to the package last year.
Of the additional allocation, $5.2 billion will be allocated to the Jobs Growth Incentive scheme to extend the hiring window by seven months up to end-September.
With the extension, companies hiring eligible locals will be given up to 12 months of wage support from the month of hire. Mature workers, persons with disabilities, and ex-offenders will be given up to 18 months of enhanced wage support.
Through the next phase of the Jobs and Skills package, the government aims to support the hiring of 200,000 locals this year and provide up to 35,000 traineeship and training opportunities.
The government is providing $900 million under the Household Support package to give additional support for families amid the economic uncertainty.
Each Singaporean household will get $100 Community Development Council (CDC) Vouchers to be used at participating heartland shops and hawker centres.
All lower-income Singaporeans who quality for the GST Voucher-Cash will get an additional special payment of $200 each in June this year.
Eligible HDB households will get an additional 50 per cent of their regular GST Voucher–U-save over one year, or between $120 and $200 of utilities rebates, in April and July.
Eligible Singaporean households living in HDB flats will get rebates to offset between 1.5 and 3.5 months of Service and Conservancy charges over a year. This will be disbursed in April, July and October this year, and January next year.
Singaporean children below 21 this year will be eligible for an additional one-off top-up of $200 to their Child Development Account, Edusave Account and Post-Secondary Education Account. The top-up for the latter two accounts will be in effect in May while the top-up for the Child Development Account will happen in September.
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