On 18 February, Deputy Prime Minister Mr Heng Swee Keat made the Budget 2020 speech setting out what needed to be done to beat the COVID-19 outbreak. The Government was monitoring the situation closely but made it clear that they could and were prepared to do more if the situation required them to do so.
Just weeks after the Budget speech was initially delivered, COVID-19 was confirmed to be a pandemic.
In response to the outbreak, the government pledged $6.4 billion in the Unity Budget towards the Stabilisation and Support Package, the Care and Support Package, and to support frontline agencies.
“Today, I will introduce measures worth over $48 billion in this Resilience Budget, to deal decisively with the situation at hand. This is over seven times of the first tranche” announced Mr Heng Swee Keat.
The Government have warned that the COVID-19 pandemic is likely to take at least a year to be resolved, and the economic repercussions could longer.
Public health measures have caused severe economic disruptions and uncertainties and as more countries implement their measures, the economic disruptions will be wider, deeper, and more prolonged.
Resilience Budget to help workers, businesses and to overcome immediate economic challenges
The Deputy Prime Minister announced that “Altogether, we are dedicating close to $55 billion to support our people in this battle, amounting to 11% of our GDP. This is a landmark package, and a necessary response to a unique situation.”
The Resilience Budget focuses on three key areas: first is to save jobs, support workers, and protect livelihoods.
Secondly to help enterprises overcome immediate challenges and to strengthen economic and social resilience so that the country will come out of the crisis stronger.
Investments in Research & Development will continue
Mr Heng said that the COVID-19 outbreak has reinforced the importance of investing in R&D to prepare for critical challenges such as in managing pandemics and ensuring food security.
He also highlighted that investments in R&D have borne fruit stating that it has enabled Singapore to become one of the first countries to successfully develop COVID-19 test kits.
The Minister gave the example of the Fortitude 2.0 kit which was developed by A*STAR and Tan Tock Seng Hospital. This is currently used in nine local hospitals and has been sent to several countries including China, Myanmar, and the Philippines.
He announced that the government will continue to make steady investments in R&D, under the masterplan for Research, Innovation and Enterprise. He said that more details on these investments will be revealed towards the end of the financial year.
Businesses Urged to Digitalise, Restructure, and Transform
The Minister urged businesses to continue to make use of this downtime to digitalise, restructure, and transform.
He suggested that they leverage the government initiatives – SMEs Go Digital Programme, the Productivity Solutions Grant (PSG) and the Enterprise Development Grant (EDG) to do so.
These initiatives will be further enhanced to give businesses a boost during this period.
The SMEs Go Digital Programme will be enhanced to provide support for more digital solutions, from basic remote working tools to more advanced systems. Support levels will be raised to the maximum for PSG and EDG to 80% and 90% respectively to push transformation.
To help enterprises deepen their digital capabilities to strengthen business continuity measures and build resilience, IMDA and Enterprise Singapore will provide up to 80% funding support for enterprises to adopt advanced digital solutions from 1 May 2020 to 31 December 2020.
This will be done in collaboration with partners that can scale reach and implement digital solutions, both within the enterprise and across the industry.
Under SMEs Go Digital, it was announced that SMEs will receive funding support for the adoption of pre-approved digital solutions through the PSG. From 1 April 2020 to 31 December 2020, the scope of pre-approved digital solutions under PSG will be expanded to help SMEs implement safe distancing and business continuity measures.
PSG will cover online collaboration tools such as virtual meeting and telephony tools, queue management systems and temperature screening solutions.
The enhancements to these schemes will last until December 2020.