KUALA LUMPUR — Singapore’s retail sales fell by 13.3 per cent year-on-year in March, a sign that the new coronavirus pandemic was walloping the economy even before a government-imposed lockdown in April.
The March sales slump in South-East Asia’s richest nation came on the back of a collapse in international travel, which typically brings visitors keen to splash out in Singapore’s array of plush malls.
The Department of Statistics, which published the data on Tuesday, attributed the decline to “weaker domestic consumption and fewer tourist arrivals as a result of the Covid-19 outbreak.”
After initially shunning the lockdowns seen in neighbours such as Malaysia, Singapore in March tightened domestic restrictions aimed at slowing the spread of Covid-19, the disease caused by the virus.
And though grocery shops increased sales by 35 per cent in March due to people stockpiling and reducing spending in restaurants, March’s overall slump suggests a rout looms in April.
Singapore has been under a “circuit breaker” lockdown since April 7.
On April 1, Singapore had reported just 1,000 cases, a number that had jumped to 19,410 by Tuesday. That includes 16,970 migrants confined to dozens of cramped dormitories who have contracted the disease, according to Health Ministry data.
Singapore’s purchasing manager index for April hinted at the damage being wrought by the pandemic and lockdown, with the 44.7 reading announced late on Monday the lowest since the 2008-9 global financial crisis. Any figure under 50 indicates a decline.
This is the third consecutive month where the index has come in under 50.
Singapore’s trade-dependent economy is likely to bear the “full brunt” of a global recession, according to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. The government has repeatedly warned that gross domestic product could contract by up to 4 per cent in 2020Show