Govt working on second stimulus package as outbreak goes on: DPM Heng, Latest Singapore News - The New Paper

Govt working on second stimulus package as outbreak goes on: DPM Heng

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He does not rule out tapping reserves amid coronavirus outbreak

As the global coronavirus situation has worsened since the Budget last month, the Government is working on a second stimulus package, Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat said yesterday.

Like the existing $4 billion package announced on Feb 18, it will aim to help workers keep their jobs, he said. It will also help small and medium-sized enterprises through the crisis, and support workers who are retrenched.

Mr Heng, who is also Finance Minister, said he had a discussion with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Tuesday on the key measures needed.

"Our topmost concern is our workers because if all workers can keep their jobs, consumption can resume and life can take place as normally as possible."

He was at the Budget 2020 Roundtable organised by The Straits Times and The Business Times, with OCBC Bank as the presenting sponsor.

Mr Heng noted that in recent weeks, uncertainty has grown in global financial markets as the virus has spread to all the major economies - the US, Japan and the European Union. Sentiments have fallen, affecting investments and consumption.

"That is the reason why since about 10 days ago, we have started working on the need for a second package to stabilise our economy and to emerge stronger from this," he said.

While Singapore's first priority is to tackle the outbreak, it must also look at how to revive the economy, he added.

Mr Heng said in a separate radio interview with Money FM 89.3's Elliott Danker that the Government is working out the details of the second package and has been looking at feedback from businesses.

Asked if he would consider tapping past reserves, Mr Heng said he is not ruling it out.

"Our reserves have been set aside to meet the needs of a rainy day, and it looks like this rain is not a light one," he said. "So we will have to look at what we need to do."

But he noted President Halimah Yacob will need to assent to the use of the reserves.

In a Facebook post yesterday afternoon, Madam Halimah said the Government has been keeping her and the Council of Presidential Advisers updated, and they are monitoring the situation closely. "If our public health is at stake and our people's welfare affected, we need to do the necessary," she said.

At the roundtable, Mr Heng highlighted the need to support self-employed people who have been hit hard.

He said: "We have to rethink this whole model, to look at how we can strengthen it better, so that when we have a downturn like this, how can they be better protected? And if we have an upturn, how can they be ready?"

At the same time, Singapore should aim to emerge stronger from the outbreak, which has revealed certain needs of the global economy, he said.

This will be a key focus of the Future Economy Council's Emerging Stronger Taskforce, to be set up to help businesses find opportunities amid the crisis and emerge stronger.