DPM Heng Swee Keat to deliver ministerial statement on further Covid-19 support measures on Monday

SINGAPORE – Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat will deliver a ministerial statement next Monday (Aug 17) on how the Government will continue its support for workers and businesses, and protect livelihoods during the Covid-19 pandemic.

He will deliver the statement at 3.30pm via a broadcast carried on The Straits Times’ website, Channel News Asia, CNA938, and Mediacorp MeWatch.

In a Facebook post on Friday (Aug 14), Mr Heng said that over the past few weeks, many people have shared with him their anxieties and concerns about their livelihoods.

“Weighing on their minds was also the uncertainty ahead, given that some of the support schemes are expiring. I will be providing more details on how we will evolve and extend our support for our companies and our workers in my Ministerial Statement on Monday,” he said.

He added that while the Government will continue to support workers and firms through this crisis, it is not able to sustain the same level of support indefinitely.

“As more sectors reopen gradually, we will have to evolve and taper the support provided,” he said.

“We will continue to provide targeted support to sectors that are hardest hit, including helping them pivot to new opportunities in growth areas.

Measures announced during the four Budgets earlier this year included the Jobs Support Scheme (JSS) of wage subsidies, cash transfers for households, rental and foreign worker levy waivers and financial assistance for the self-employed, among others.

Mr Heng’s statement comes amid a deepening recession due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Singapore’s gross domestic product (GDP) shrank by 6.7 per cent in the first half of this year, with the Ministry of Trade and Industry now predicting that GDP will decline by 5 to 7 per cent in 2020, compared to the previous forecast range of -4 to -7 per cent.

In the second quarter, the economy contracted by 13.2 per cent year on year, sharper than the 12.6 per cent plunge earlier estimated and the worst on record.

Earlier this week, Mr Heng said he has been having intensive discussions with government agencies to review and adjust government support schemes as the situation develops.

Some of the schemes announced during the Budget are set to taper off before the end of the year.

Under the Fortitude Budget announced in May – the fourth round of Covid-19 government aid so far – the enhanced JSS saw wage subsidies for all local employees extended to cover salaries in August, with payouts disbursed in October.

The scheme was introduced in the first round of Budget support packages in February. Under the scheme, firms can get up to 75 per cent of the first $4,600 of gross monthly wages for each local worker subsidised.

Sectors more badly hit by the pandemic, such as the aviation and tourism sectors, have been receiving more support under the JSS.

Other examples of measures which will end soon include foreign worker levy waivers, and the Self-Employed Person Income Relief Scheme (Sirs).

All firms in the construction, marine shipyard and process sectors received a full waiver of foreign worker levies due in June and a 50 per cent waiver for levies due in July.

This was later extended to a full waiver for levies due in July, August and September.

As the firms restart and the tempo of activities picks up, the waiver will be stepped down to 75 per cent for October, 50 per cent for November and 25 per cent for December.

Under Sirs, self-employed persons received cash payments of $3,000 each in May and July, with the final payment due in October.

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