Remarks by Deputy Prime Minister, Coordinating Minister for Economic Policies and Minister for Finance Heng Swee Keat during his visit to Shangri-La Rasa Sentosa on Chinese New Year Eve, 11 February 2021.
A year ago, COVID-19 had just reached our shores.
Brother Chee Meng and I visited Shangri-La Rasa Sentosa to see how our hotels were coping.
Twelve months later, we are here again at Rasa Sentosa.
The pandemic has disrupted lives and livelihoods, here and around the world.
Our hotel, tourism and aviation sectors have been hard hit, as global travel came to a halt.
I am glad that the team at Rasa Sentosa has adapted swiftly.
They pivoted to serve those on stay home notices. Later, as the situation improved, they offered staycations.
With government support, they retained their workers and used the downtime to put in 23,000 hours of SkillsFuture training!
What has taken place at Rasa Sentosa is also seen in other hotels and in other sectors. Companies and workers are adapting quickly, building new capabilities and learning new skills, innovating and creating new opportunities.
Impact of COVID-19 support measures
On our part, the Government has put in our best effort to support workers, businesses and their families during this difficult time.
The Ministry of Finance has just released an interim analysis on the impact of the Government’s COVID-19 support measures.
While many schemes are ongoing, our early findings are that the measures have helped to cushion the impact of the recession.
To protect lives, the Government committed $13.8 billion to public health measures, enabling our healthcare and frontline agencies to respond swiftly.
To protect livelihoods, the Government devoted $73.5 billion to support workers and businesses.
Most businesses did their best, to stay afloat and retain their workers.
More than $27 billion of grants were disbursed to businesses, mostly for the Jobs Support Scheme, helping firms keep their workers.
By holding on to their workers, they could resume operations quickly when the situation allowed.
Our financing schemes also helped 20,000 firms to get $17 billion in low-interest loans, helping their cashflow.
90% of these firms were micro and small enterprises.
We committed to create jobs and opportunities for our workers, because a job is the best means to support oneself and the family.
The SGUnited Jobs & Skills Package facilitated the placement of 76,000 locals into jobs, traineeships and training opportunities.
Under the Jobs Growth Incentive, growing firms hired more than 110,000 local jobseekers.
To help individuals and households cope with their expenditure in this period of uncertainty, we put in $10 billion. This included the Solidarity payment to all adult Singaporeans, and additional support for workers and self-employed persons who lost their jobs or a big part of their incomes.
On average, each Singaporean household received $4,000. Households with less means received an additional $5,000 more.
Overall, the COVID-19 support measures have made a significant difference to keep our people safe and preserve our livelihoods.
Job losses were averted, and shocks were cushioned.
More help went to support families in need, which went some way to mitigate inequality.
The interim analysis is encouraging, as it showed that the schemes are achieving the outcomes that they were designed for.
You can read the full report online.
I will be delivering my Budget Statement next Tuesday.
The global outlook remains highly uncertain.
Our economic recovery is expected to be uneven across sectors.
We will continue to tackle the immediate challenges of the pandemic, to safeguard public health and re-open safely, support our workers and businesses where needed, with targeted help for sectors that are still under stress.
But the virus pandemic has created and accelerated many structural changes. I will set out how we can emerge stronger from this crisis.
We will work together to build a Singapore that is economically vibrant, socially cohesive and environmentally sustainable.
At the same time, we need to continue to maintain fiscal discipline and strengthen our sense of togetherness.
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