The impact of COVID-19 has become the global crisis of this generation and the four Budgets put forth by the Government is a strong response to prevent a lost generation of workers and students, said Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat.
In his wrap-up speech to the Fortitude Budget debate in Parliament, DPM Heng noted the magnitude of the crisis is unprecedented and warned that recovery could take a long time.
As such, the four key objectives of the Budget are:
- Minimise the spread of the virus and risk to lives
- Stabilise the economy, save jobs and viable companies, and protect livelihoods
- Reposition workers, businesses and the community to respond to major shifts
- Seize new growth areas to emerge stronger
DPM Heng pointed out this is why people and jobs are at the centre of the Budgets – with close to 80 per cent of the $93 billion for the COVID-19 response committed to helping workers stay in their jobs.
Beyond unemployment, DPM Heng said even those who have managed to retain their jobs may suffer under-employment or income loss. This could become a vicious cycle, where consumption falls, and affected businesses further reduce labour demand. On this, DPM Heng shared how the Jobs Support Scheme is intended to supporting businesses – defraying their wage costs – so they can retain and pay workers. Nonetheless, he urged businesses to relook their business models and how jobs can be re-designed for better growth.
The Government is also creating some 100,000 opportunities to help local workers find new jobs, including in emerging areas such as infocommunication technologies, financial services and healthcare.
More help will also be available to graduating students, mid-career workers and self-employed persons, DPM Heng added.
Amidst the uncertainties, DPM Heng said accelerating Singapore’s economic transformation will be a national priority to ensure the nation survives and succeeds. Hence, the Emerging Stronger Taskforce is studying key shifts and developing recommendations in the areas of technology and innovation, digitalisation, and disruption to global supply chains.
“Let us take this rare chance to repair, upgrade our ship and install new instruments, re-orientate our mental compass, and strengthen our sailors, so that when the fair wind comes, we will sail out faster and further than ever before,” DPM Heng said.
Addressing MPs’ concerns on tapping the reserves, DPM Heng said the crisis has highlighted the importance of upholding the prudence and discipline of Singapore’s forefathers to spend responsibly, and prepare for the future. This also assures Singaporeans of the country’s ability to navigate the challenges ahead, to protect lives and sustain livelihoods. It also instils confidence in global investors that Singapore’s economic fundamentals are sound and stable in the long term.
Moving ahead, DPM Heng said Singapore must get three things right in order to survive and emerge stronger. These are:
- Good governance and strong, adaptive leadership
- Strong social reserves across all levels and parts of society
- Clear and unwavering about its values and mission
“More than ever before, these fundamentals will be crucial as we navigate the uncertainties ahead,” DPM Heng said.