President Halimah Yacob approves Budget, including $6b draw on reserves to battle Covid-19
President Halimah Yacob on Wednesday (March 23) approved the draw of $6 billion from Singapore's past reserves to continue supporting the nation's Covid-19 public health expenditure.
"Even as we prepare to transition to the new normal, it is not time yet to spare efforts in areas such as testing, clinical management, vaccination and therapeutics," she said.
In a Facebook post announcing her approval of the Government's Budget, she noted this was the third consecutive financial year that Singapore has had to draw on its reserves to battle the pandemic.
Madam Halimah added: "These draws are inevitable because we must garner necessary resources to protect Singaporeans and bolster our economy."
Parliament on March 11 approved the Government's $109 billion spending plans for the coming financial year after nine days of debate on topics including the upcoming goods and services tax increase and foreign manpower policies.
On Wednesday, Madam Halimah pointed out that the cumulative expected draw on past reserves over the past two financial years was up to $42.9 billion, less than the initial draw of $52 billion originally agreed on for financial year 2020.
"I take heart that the Government is prudent in the use of past reserves, rolling out measures that are critically needed for our people and businesses," she added.
Finance Minister Lawrence Wong said in his Budget statement on Feb 18 that the lower cumulative draw was due to Singapore's "swift and decisive response" to the pandemic, which averted worse public health outcomes.
The stronger-than-expected rebound in the economy and businesses also meant that measures such as provisions for loan loss were not used, he added.
Of the $6 billion drawn this financial year, $3.7 billion will go towards Covid-19 testing, clinical management and contact tracing, $1.2 billion towards vaccination and therapeutics and $1.1 billion towards isolation facilities, border management and safe distancing.
The Finance Ministry has said that these are temporary and extraordinary measures required to maintain a multi-layered public health defence in the near term.
Madam Halimah said she had consulted the Council of Presidential Advisers before giving her assent to the Supply Bill.
Her assent paves the way for the Supply Bill to become law, and it will control how much the Government is allowed to spend, and on what, in the financial year.
"With perseverance and cooperation from everyone, I am confident that we will once again ride out the current Covid-19 Omicron wave, and further enhance our resilience as a nation," said Madam Halimah.