Singapore has announced its Emerging Stronger Together budget for 2021, a S$11 billion (US$8.31 billion) package covering aviation aid, enhancing business-focused funding programmes, and extending the Jobs Support Scheme for worst-hit sectors.
Singapore's deputy prime minister Heng Swee Keat delivered the Budget 2021 statement in Parliament on Tuesday, 16 February, stating that the "global battle from Covid-19 is far from over," and that the Covid-19 Resilience Package will tackle the "immediate tasks" of fighting the pandemic.
To date, 250,000 people in Singapore have received the first dose of vaccine, while 55,000 have received their second dose.
The package will be three-pronged: Continuing to support workers and businesses, safeguarding public health and providing targeted help to sectors that are still under stress.
Firms in Tier 1 sectors — aviation, aerospace and tourism — will receive another six months of support under the JSS scheme.
In particular, the Jobs Support Scheme (JSS) will be extended for the fourth time since it was first introduced in the Budget 2020 statement last February. This year's JSS budget will cost the government another S$700 million for its efforts to subsidise wages for firms.
"So far, we’ve committed over S$25 billion to JSS, and supported over 155,000 employers for up to 17 months. The current tranche will continue to cover wages up to March 2021 for most sectors," said Heng.
However, the deputy prime minister too pointed out that despite a recovering economy, some sectors remain under stress, and hence the need for an extended JSS scheme.
Firms in Tier 1 sectors — aviation, aerospace and tourism — will receive another six months of support. Relevant companies can expect an initial 30% support for wages paid from April to June, followed by 10% support for wages paid from July to September 2021.
As a result of the Singapore government's "expeditious support through a series of budget provisions in 2020", Kwee Wei-Lin, president of Singapore Hotel Association, stated many hotel jobs were protected and members kept afloat despite the global crisis.
"The extension of Job Support Scheme, SGUnited Jobs & Skills Package and Wage Credit Scheme will help to mitigate job losses while members concentrate on ensuring the survival of Singapore’s hotel industry and prepare for the return of international travellers when borders finally reopen," she added. "Grants for job redesign and upskilling of the hotel workforce will facilitate our industry’s transformation for the post-pandemic era."
Airlines and other aviation sector players in particular will be getting a S$870 million boost this year, in Singapore's bid to "secure our position as a key aviation hub and maintain Changi’s position as a safe, trusted, and well-connected airport for travellers and employees alike". S$383 million was committed to the sector last year.
Some measures include a 10% landing charge rebate for airlines with scheduled passenger flights landing locally, and a 50% rebate on rental paid by ground handling companies’ lounges and offices within Changi Airport and Seletar Airport terminal buildings.
As of end January 2021, total passenger movement at Changi International Airport was only 2% of pre-Covid levels.
Because global air travel recovery will still "take some time" with most international borders closed, Heng noted in his speech that he expects the sector to take this lull time to prepare for travel recovery. “Airports will be differentiated by their capabilities in securing public health and enabling safe travel. They will need digitalised systems and the ability to effectively re-route people and goods,” he said.