Government will roll out second help package if needed: Heng, Latest Singapore News - The New Paper

Government will roll out second help package if needed: Heng

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DPM Heng also announces new working group to help businesses amid virus crisis

As the coronavirus outbreak continues to evolve, the Government is prepared to implement decisive measures to tide businesses over, including rolling out a second help package, said Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat yesterday.

But he noted that hammering out the details of this second package would not be a simple endeavour, and urged companies to first try to make the most of the existing $4 billion package announced at the Budget last month.

"Sectors such as aviation and tourism have been the hardest-hit by the outbreak. But if the situation worsens, and other sectors are also significantly affected, we will consider if a second package is needed," said Mr Heng, speaking at an annual post-Budget forum organised by Chinese daily Lianhe Zaobao at the Capitol Theatre.

A working group will be set up to help businesses find opportunities amid the crisis, he said.

Mr Heng, who is also Finance Minister, will head the group. It will involve other ministers and business leaders, and come under the Future Economy Council.

"When the economy slows down, we need to encourage enterprises to build up their strengths and further strengthen their economic transformation," he said.

Mr Heng has previously said that Singapore is ready to do more to support businesses should the evolving Covid-19 situation call for it.

In presenting the Budget on Feb 18, Mr Heng announced a $4 billion Stabilisation and Support Package to provide job and cash-flow support to help firms retain and retrain workers in light of a looming slowdown.

Another $8.3 billion has been set aside over three years to spur enterprises and the economy to transform and grow, he said at the time.

At the forum yesterday, business leaders said firms may need more help when it comes to planning for the future and pushing on with restructuring and business transformation efforts.

Association of Small and Medium Enterprises president Kurt Wee suggested the Government explore the possibility of working with banks to issue a six-month moratorium on principal repayments for business loans, so that firms have more time and space to re-evaluate their business strategy in the coming months.

His suggestion would see businesses pay interest for just the six-month period, without the loans being classified as non-performing loans.

Mr Heng said the working group is one of the ways in which businesses and stakeholders can come together to address the long-term issue of transformation.


He also urged businesses and trade associations to share resources and help one another tide through the current crisis.

On the coronavirus outbreak, Mr Heng outlined three possible scenarios for Singapore.

It could become more serious, or it could follow the same trajectory seen during the H1N1 influenza outbreak in 2009, when the threat of the virus eroded over time and Singapore's economy rebounded within a relatively fast period, he said.

The situation could also turn into one where the virus spreads slowly but is able to be contained with government measures.

"We will continue to cooperate with other countries, including China, to strengthen our response to the coronavirus outbreak," said Mr Heng.