SINGAPORE, May 26 (Xinhua) -- Singapore's Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat said on Tuesday that the government would further strengthen support for businesses on the 3Cs, which were cash flow, costs and credit, with its new budget, to help businesses get back on feet and reopen safely after the COVID-19 circuit breaker.
Heng, who is also the minister for finance, said when announcing Singapore's fourth budget this year that the circuit breaker, which was put in place to bring down COVID-19 community transmission decisively, affected many businesses that could not operate offsite.
The deputy PM said the Singaporean government would help businesses on cash flow through the Job Support Scheme (JSS), which supports firms in retaining and paying their workers. With the new budget, called the Fortitude Budget, the JSS will have three enhancements.
Firstly, the duration of JSS payouts will be increased by one month for all firms. Secondly, firms that could not resume operations immediately after the circuit breaker, including retail outlets, gym and fitness studios and cinemas, will continue to get wage support from the government at 75 percent of the first 4,600-Singapore-dollar wages until August 2020 or when they are allowed to reopen, whichever is earlier. Thirdly, the government will refine the classification of firms in the different JSS tiers and increase the level of wage support for firms in sectors that are more severely impacted.
As for support to businesses on costs, Heng said that the government would extend the Foreign Worker Levy waiver and rebate for up to two months for the businesses that would not be allowed to resume operations on-site immediately after the circuit breaker.
Meanwhile, the government will defer the planned increase in Central Provident Fund (CPF) contribution rates for senior workers by one year. CPF is a compulsory comprehensive savings and pension plan for working Singaporeans and permanent residents primarily to fund their retirement, healthcare and housing needs in Singapore.
Besides, the government will expand rental relief for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), some of whom are facing difficulties with rental costs. It will also extend rental relief for government tenants.
The Singaporean government will support business on credit by providing financing support for promising startups. "This will help them sustain their innovation and entrepreneurship journey," said Heng.
He said that the government would set aside 285 million Singapore dollars to catalyze and crowd in at least another 285 million dollars in matching private investments.
The new budget will commit a total of 33 billion dollars to support the next phase of Singapore's fight against COVID-19. Together with the previous three budgets, the government is dedicating 92.9 billion dollars or 19.2 percent of Singapore's GDP, to support its people in the battle.
The overall budget deficit for the financial year 2020 would increase to 74.3 billion dollars, or 15.4 percent of GDP, said Heng, adding that it was the largest overall budget deficit in Singapore's history since its independence.