Singapore—In a February 6 (Thursday) interview on Money FM 89.3, Second Minister for Finance Indranee Rajah announced that this year’s national Budget will include support for firms and citizens financially affected by the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) as well as help families with cost of living needs.
Straitstimes.com reports that Ms Indranee, who is also the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office, has said that Budget 2020 will be a comprehensive one, with a broad scope that addresses various issues that workers and families today are facing.
She assured that the country has “a sound position and strong fundamentals,” and that the financial cost of the virus, which originated in Wuhan, a city in central China and has gone on to affect around 25,000 individuals all over the world, can be withstood.
Ms Indranee added, however, that the country has “to make some adjustments to make sure companies and workers are supported.”
She said during the interview, “the new coronavirus situation will have a global impact, and this is something we have to take into account.”
The country has weathered similar crises before, and Ms Indranee pointed out that in such times crises may be turned into opportunities. One example of this, she cited, is how businesses can use this time for building employees’ capabilities.
In 2003, she noted, the Government provided a response package for the two sectors that were affected the most, tourism and transport. As for the economic slowdown a few years later, the Government made the most of the time by retraining workers.
However, the Budget will not only take care of issues at hand, but has an eye toward the future, with targeted support for business as they move forward.
The Minister said, ”Many small and medium-sized enterprises know it’s important to tap the digital economy, but they have to decide which products to choose and how to make sense of all the things in the market. So we want to look at packages that will help them make those choices.”
Aside from this are programmes to help workers who have been laid off, to help small businesses expand, incentivizing firms to hire older employees or provide a more flexible work schedule.
Ms Indranee said, “Singaporeans are living longer and healthier for longer periods. Not all want to work full-time, but people want to be active and do something fulfilling. And the option should be there. They may choose to work or volunteer…but we want to have the right conditions for people to choose what they want to do in their retirement. Retirement from work is not retirement from life.”
There is support as well for more vulnerable sectors in society. “We know that families would like to have greater support with the cost of living. Families looking after younger children and older parents feel the crunch a bit more,” she added.
Heng Swee Keat, the country’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance said on Feb 1 that the government is preparing a relief package for the transport and tourism sectors, since these sectors would be significantly impacted by the 2019-nCoV virus outbreak. —/TISG
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