Singapore skyline over Marina Bay (Simon Roughneen)
Singapore skyline over Marina Bay (Simon Roughneen)

KUALA LUMPUR — In a televised speech to parliament on Monday afternoon, Singapore Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat announced a “solidarity budget” that will take government spending aimed at curbing the impact of coronavirus to over 40 billion dollars.

Heng said the outlay aims “to save jobs and protect livelihoods of people” during an effective lockdown due to start tomorrow.

All Singaporean adults are to receive a one-off handout worth 421 dollars (600 Singapore dollars) while some business levies will be waived or reduced.

Monday marks the third time in six weeks that Heng has introduced extra fiscal measures to counter the economic devastation wrought by Covid-19, the potentially fatal respiratory disease caused by the new coronavirus.

Heng said that the new measures will cost 3.6 billion dollars (5.1 Singapore dollars), taking total projected outlay to almost 42 billion dollars, roughly 12 per cent of gross domestic product.

Six people have died in Singapore after contracting Covid-19. Sunday saw Singapore’s caseload jump by 120, the most in one day, to reach 1,309.

While Singapore’s infection tally is low relative to European countries with a similar-sized population, a recent jump in cases of unknown origin prompted the government to announce on Friday that a month-long effective lockdown will be imposed, starting on Tuesday.

“It will disrupt businesses severely,” Heng said.

The government acknowledged in March that Singapore’s small and open economy faces recession due to the pandemic, which has killed around 70,000 people worldwide and caused trade and travel to plummet.

“We must expect our GDP to take a further hit,” Heng said on Monday.

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