Singapore rolls out new budget boost for virus-hit firms

SINGAPORE: People walk during lunch time at the Raffles Place financial business district in Singapore yesterday.-AFP

SINGAPORE: Singapore yesterday unveiled a fresh multi-billion-dollar package to help pandemic-battered businesses and fund a vaccination drive, as part of the city-state’s annual budget. The coronavirus has plunged the financial hub into its worst-ever recession, with the crucial aviation and tourism sectors hit particularly hard as global travel ground to a halt. Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat announced the new package totalling Sg$11 billion (US$8.3 billion) as he unveiled the budget in parliament.

A substantial chunk will be allocated to helping workers and businesses still affected by the pandemic, including in the travel and aviation sectors. More than 40 percent of the funds will go to financing public health and measures to ensure a safe reopening of the economy, he said.

This includes inoculation efforts-vaccines are given for free to all residents-as well as the tracking of people possibly exposed to a coronavirus carrier. Heng said close to 250,000 people have received their first dose, and 55,000 have had their second jab.

The latest package of financial aid is on top of the nearly Sg$100 billion rolled out last year. Singapore’s economy, which shrank a record 5.4 percent last year, has started regaining strength in recent months but Heng warned that the recovery is uneven.

“The global battle against Covid-19 is still far from over. Many places are still experiencing high levels of infection.” Singapore has had a relatively mild outbreak with nearly 60,000 cases and 29 deaths, and in recent times has recorded very few local transmissions. – AFP

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