Deep reserves allow for Budget measures to counter virus woes: Heng
Heng says Budget to include measures not on table a month ago, reserves include strength and empathy
If not for its deep reserves, Singapore could not act quickly and decisively to roll out Budget measures to fight the coronavirus outbreak, said Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat yesterday.
Budget 2020 will include measures "not on the table one month ago", he noted in a Facebook post on the eve of the Budget.
In highlighting the country's reserves, he said he did not just mean its financial reserves, which give the Government the ability and confidence to mount a robust response to unexpected situations.
He also meant the reserves of strength, resilience, empathy, and resourcefulness among public servants and Singaporeans.
"Without these reserves, we would have been much worse off - both financially and psychologically. My team and I would not be able to spend the last few weeks working on the stabilisation and support measures," said Mr Heng, who is also the Finance Minister.
"We would instead be lying awake trying to project the negative impact of the outbreak, how much of a hit we are going to suffer, rather than what we can do to stabilise our economy and support our people."
The Budget is funded by various sources of income: taxes and fees, and returns from Singapore's invested reserves, or the Net Investment Returns Contribution (NIRC). The NIRC stood at $17 billion last year.
Noting that Budget details were usually settled "as early as possible", Mr Heng said the same could not be done this year because of the outbreak of the disease known as Covid-19.
Instead, the Finance Ministry (MOF) had been putting in extra hours to track the fast-evolving situation, listening to Singaporeans' suggestions, and coming up with targeted support measures, he said.
"I had really hoped that (the many young officers at MOF) could have a nice Valentine's Day with their loved ones last Friday. Instead, they asked for understanding from their partners and worked with me through the night and over the weekend," he added.
Mr Heng had on Sunday said the Budget will have a package to assist households with the cost of living.
Other broad-based measures include wage support to help companies preserve jobs for local workers and tax rebates and rental waivers for companies to address cash flow issues.
Recalling in his post the sacrifices made by past generations, he called on Singaporeans to never take for granted the reserves of strength the nation has built over the years.
Mr Heng added: "I am grateful for the deep reserves we have - of finances, but more importantly of friendship, care, grit. I will do my best to protect and grow these.
"Let's advance as One Singapore, and emerge stronger as one people."