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Budget 2020 made possible by S’pore’s ‘deep reserves’ — and it’s not just about the money, says DPM Heng

SINGAPORE — The fast-evolving Covid-19 outbreak meant that the Ministry of Finance team had to clock extra hours to come up with Budget measures that were not on the table a month ago, Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat said on Monday (Feb 17).

Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat said in a Facebook post on Feb 17, 2020 that some Ministry of Finance staff members had to forego Valentine's Day with their loved ones in order to work on the Budget 2020.

Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat said in a Facebook post on Feb 17, 2020 that some Ministry of Finance staff members had to forego Valentine's Day with their loved ones in order to work on the Budget 2020.

SINGAPORE — The fast-evolving Covid-19 outbreak meant that the Ministry of Finance team had to clock extra hours to come up with Budget measures that were not on the table a month ago, Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat said on Monday (Feb 17).

And this was possible only because of Singapore’s deep reserves, not only in financial terms, but also in terms of “the reserves of strength, resilience, empathy, and resourcefulness among our public servants and fellow Singaporeans”, he wrote in a Facebook post.

“Without these reserves, we would have been much worse off — both financially and psychologically. My team and I would not be able to spend the last few weeks working on the stabilisation and support measures,” said Mr Heng, who is also Finance Minister.

“We would instead be lying awake trying to project the negative impact of the outbreak, how much of a hit we are going to suffer, rather than what we can do to stabilise our economy and support our people.”

Mr Heng will deliver his Budget statement in Parliament at 3pm on Tuesday.

He said that details of the annual Budget were usually ironed out as early as possible but this could not be done this year because of the outbreak.

On Sunday, Mr Heng had said that he will unveil several measures to support companies and help employees stay in their jobs amid the virus outbreak in his Budget statement. The package of support measures is expected to be larger than the S$230 million relief package at the time of the severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars) outbreak in 2003.

Mr Heng said the measures would include wage support, tax rebates and rental waivers for companies, as well as a package to help households to manage the cost of living.

More support will also be given to sectors that have been the hardest hit, including food and beverage, and retail, he added.

Mr Heng urged Singaporeans to look at the virus outbreak as a “spur and test” instead of a disruption.

“It spurs us to do our best for Singaporeans, who are themselves doing their best for their families and those around them.

“It is a test for us to show that we can rise to the challenge, and be worthy of the generations who came before us, and future generations to come,” he wrote.

Mr Heng said he had initially hoped the many young MOF officers could have enjoyed Valentine’s Day with their loved ones on Friday.

“Instead, they asked for understanding from their partners, and worked with me through the night and over the weekend,” he wrote.

Mr Heng added: “I am proud of our public officers, who are working selflessly on the frontline and in the backrooms.

“I am moved by our people whose acts of kindness and compassion inspire us. I am grateful for the deep reserves we have — of finances, but more importantly of friendship, care, grit.”

Related topics

Covid-19 Wuhan virus Budget 2020 Heng Swee Keat MOF

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