Singapore to tap reserves for $30 billion in new virus support measures

By Fathin Ungku
Seats are taped up to encourage social distancing, due to the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), at a food center in Singapore

By Fathin Ungku

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Singapore on Thursday unveiled more than $30 billion in new measures to help businesses and households fight the coronavirus pandemic that threatens to push the bellwether economy into a deep recession.

The new measures, which include wage support, loan schemes and tax breaks, amount to around S$48 billion ($33 billion) and will see the government dip into its national reserves for the first time since the global financial crisis.

The hard-hit aviation and tourism sectors received sizeable support in packages that will raise the city-state's budget deficit in FY2020 to S$39.2 billion, equivalent to 7.9% of GDP.

"The COVID-19 pandemic is the most serious crisis we have faced in a generation," Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat said.

"We will stand with our workers and businesses to ride through this economic storm together."

The measures, which also involve a three-month pay cut for political office holders, come weeks after Singapore unveiled multi-billion dollar virus-fighting plans in its annual budget.

Singapore has won global plaudits in its two-month long battle with the virus, but a recent surge in infections has forced authorities to shut its borders and entertainment venues, battering firms across the travel and finance hub.

The city-state reported its biggest daily rise in new infections, 73, on Wednesday and its first deaths from the virus over the weekend.

Interactive graphic tracking global spread of coronavirus: open https://tmsnrt.rs/3aIRuz7 in an external browser.

($1 = 1.4467 Singapore dollars)


(Reporting by Fathin Ungku; Writing by John Geddie; Editing by Himani Sarkar)