Singapore

Agencies on front lines of Covid-19 battle to get extra funding: DPM

This article is more than 12 months old

Agencies on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic will get extra funding under the $33 billion supplementary Budget announced by Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat yesterday.

This will go towards boosting Singapore's clinical management of cases as well as its swabbing and testing capabilities, Mr Heng said, without elaborating on details in his speech.

He noted that much of the uncertainty in the months ahead stem from what is still unknown about Covid-19.

Scientists and medical experts remain divided on key issues, such as the risk of the virus being transmitted by asymptomatic carriers or the level of immunity enjoyed by those who have recovered.

Expert estimates of when a viable Covid-19 vaccine will become available range widely, from five months to more than 1½ years. Even when a vaccine is ready, making it available globally will be a huge challenge, Mr Heng added.

"The situation is fast-evolving, and global efforts at containing the pandemic are uneven and uncoordinated," he said.

"These uncertainties affect whether and when countries will be able to contain the pandemic successfully. In turn, this affects how far and how fast the global economy can recover."

Lockdowns and movement restrictions have taken a huge toll on the global economy, with many countries reporting major job losses.

As a small and open economy, Singapore's economic outlook depends critically on the state of the global economy, Mr Heng said.

At present, the country is headed for its worst recession since independence. The Ministry of Trade and Industry yesterday forecast that the economy will shrink by 7 per cent to 4 per cent, worse than the 4 per cent to 1 per cent contraction earlier predicted.

LANDMARK SUM

The Government has set aside $92.9 billion to help people keep their jobs and keep businesses afloat. This is a landmark sum and a necessary response to an unprecedented crisis, Mr Heng said.

Singaporeans have to be psychologically prepared for setbacks as the country prepares to reopen its economy and transition to a new normal.

"The global economy is unlikely to recover quickly. We must be prepared for tough times in the months ahead," he said, adding that many precautionary measures will remain in place as Singapore transitions to the next phase.

The Covid-19 crisis will be the challenge of this generation, Mr Heng added. "It is a test of our strength and fortitude, a test of our resilience and unity. How we respond will define us as a people."

coronavirus