Singapore—In response to the announcement that Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance Heng Swee Keat will be making a ministerial statement in Parliament on Tuesday (May 26) regarding further plans from the Government to extend assistance to businesses and individuals amid the coronavirus pandemic’s economic fallout, businessman Kumaran Pillai has called for a rethinking of Singapore’s economic model.
The Ministry of Finance said in a statement that Mr Heng’s speech will be about “the Government’s plans to help businesses and individuals adapt and build resilience, in our continuing fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.”
In a Facebook post on Wednesday (May 20), Mr Pillai, the publisher of The Independent Singapore, outlined the three main points concerning how the country’s economic policy needs to shift because of the damage that Covid-19 has inflicted on it.
First, over-reliance on cheap migrant labour needs to end. Mr Pillai pointed out that improving Singapore’s productivity has been discussed for years but we “have achieved little and not much to show where improvements in productivity is concerned.”
Next, Mr Pillai called for the Government to create a “solid super structure” that would enable businesses to grow both in South East Asian and global markets, given that local markets “ will be lackluster” in the immediate future because of the pandemic.
“We need new growth engines,” he added.
Finally, according to the businessman, financial aid needs to go directly into households, where it’s needed the most, to provide safety amid intense and prolonged economic turbulence. “We are going to see more individuals falling off the economic cliff. We need to give them the safety net so that they can survive the storm ahead of us.”
The Finance Minister’s statement will be televised and aired on the radio nationally, as well as published in full on the website of the Singapore Budget.
In February, the first support measures that would help individuals, families and businesses were announced by Mr Heng in the Unity Budget speech. In March, additional support measures were introduced in the Resilience Budget speech, and last month, in the Solidarity Budget speech.
His speech on May 26 comes just days before the country’s circuit breaker measures are scheduled to be lifted on June 1, with Singapore taking gradual steps toward full reopening.
Mr Heng took to Facebook on Tuesday evening (May 19) to talk about his upcoming speech, writing that he understands “the disappointment of some businesses and workers who will not be able to resume activities immediately when the circuit breaker ends,” but assuring them that his speech will discuss programmes to tide them over while they are yet unable to get back to work.
He added, “Medical experts have cautioned that this smart and agile virus will continue to be in our midst and in global circulation for some time to come. This is why all of us in Singapore and in the global community must not let our guard down. Some of the safe distancing measures will be here to stay. COVID-19 is changing our way of life and livelihoods. We must recognise that it is important for all of us to adjust our lifestyles and adapt our business models.”—/TISG
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