We’re fast approaching the end of 2020, yet it appears that Covid-19 may stay with us for some time longer. It’s been one tough year — although our daily cases are now controlled, we need to stick it out through retrenchments, paycuts, closure of businesses, worldwide recession, and even separation from loved ones overseas.
Thankfully, throughout this difficult time, the Singapore government has released 5 support packages to help cushion the economic impact of Covid-19 on Singaporeans. The support measures serve to protect jobs and livelihoods, keep businesses afloat, and help households cope with living expenses.
In the recently delivered October 2020 Ministerial Statement, Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat also announced continued support for Singapore workers and jobs. This included the extension of measures such as the Covid-19 Support Grant, wage support for affected sectors and the Enhanced Training Support Package, among others, to tide individuals and businesses through the pandemic.
In addition, a longer-term roadmap for Singapore’s future was also outlined — we’ll be talking about this refreshed economic strategy and how it benefits us in more detail below.
First things first, what are some of the new, immediate measures?
- Jobs Support Scheme — support for wages extended up to March 2021
- Enhanced Training Support Package — extended till 30 June 2021, now including the Marine and Offshore sector
- Startup SG Founder programme — enhanced in phases, with up to $150 million funding
- Jobs Growth Incentive — wage support till Feb 2021 for firms that hire locals and all Persons with Disabilities
- Covid-19 Support Grant — extended till 31 Dec 2020
- SGUnited Jobs and Skills — outreach efforts ramped up with centres in every HDB town, career ambassadors, business-to-business job matching, and employment agencies to assist with job placements
- Support for households and young families — GST Voucher – U-Save for October, Service and Conservancy Charges rebates, and one-off additional support for newborns on top of the Baby Bonus Cash Gift
- Support for aviation and tourism — Enhanced Aviation Support Package extended up to March 2021, temporary redeployment programme, and SingapoRediscovers Vouchers
In addition to these recent measures, other ongoing measures announced in the earlier Budgets (that continue to see us through the year) include the upcoming Workfare and Silver Support payouts for eligible Singaporeans, as well as grocery vouchers. Businesses struggling with manpower costs can also continue to benefit from Foreign Worker Levy waivers and rebates.
These shorter-term measures benefit Singaporeans by providing continued support during the Covid-19 pandemic, bolster affected sectors, and ease our economy into recovery more quickly. In addition to supporting firms, these measures ultimately benefit Singapore’s workers.
Moving forward to emerge stronger after Covid-19
With the advent of Covid-19, there is an international adoption of a “new normal” where digital capabilities and innovation experience strong growth. Yet there is a weakening in globalisation support as some nations are choosing to turn inwards while others implement strict border controls to protect its people.
At the same time, a recovering Asia is rising in global economic weight, and issues such as sustainability and care for the environment are taking centrestage.
Back home, we battle issues such as a slowing resident labour force growth.
As Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance Heng Swee Keat put it: “We are at a critical juncture in our economic development and the stakes are high. In the next few years, economies will undergo rapid transitions.”
“Depending on their response, Covid-19 will benefit some and disadvantage others, whether at the firm-level, sector-level, or across the entire economy. We must take the actions now that will allow us to not just get through Covid-19, but more crucially, gain ground that will pave the way for our next lap of economic growth in the next 5 to 10 years.”
Enter Singapore’s refreshed economic strategy — which aims to help us become more resilient and responsive to both internal and external changes, by building on the strong foundation laid by the existing Industry Transformation Maps.
1. Building up Singapore’s role in the world
|– Remaking Singapore as a Global-Asia node of technology, innovation, and enterprise
– Secure our external economic linkages as a vital global node in Asia, and transform ourselves into a vibrant centre of technology and innovation
With the changes that Covid-19 has brought about to travel, supply chains and digitalisation, we need to build up Singapore’s role at the heart of Asia’s growth, at the same time strengthening our links with other key markets through both physical and digital connectivity.
On the physical connectivity front, the government is committed to revive our air hub and restore our air connectivity, which has been badly affected by the pandemic. When our world-renowned air hub is rebuilt, related sectors such as tourism, manufacturing and logistics will be raised, which bodes well for those working in these industries. And when our build-up of digital capabilities is accelerated, it’ll be much easier for both businesses, especially SMEs, to transform, increase productivity, grow and gain access to international markets. One way to do so would be through the Grow Digital initiative, which will open up more opportunities as well as choices for all Singaporeans.
In addition, a new 5-year Research, Innovation and Enterprise, or RIE plan will be unveiled in December to enhance research to support Singapore’s priority areas, such as early childhood development and keeping seniors healthy. Ongoing National Innovation Challenges also help firms with viable solutions scale their ideas to benefit Singaporeans and Singapore as a whole.
With Singapore in a better position both in Asia and the world, we can better face future challenges and become more resilient, thanks to our strong linkages. There’ll also be more local and international opportunities for both businesses and individuals.
2. Building an inclusive Singapore where everyone grows together
|Redoubling our efforts to foster inclusive growth. With Covid-19 revealing vulnerabilities in our labour market, we need to better understand its structure, and upgrade jobs and skills across all segments of society.
As the saying goes: “You’re only as fast as your slowest team member”. There’s no point building up Singapore’s profile in the world when nothing is being done to help individuals move ahead and grow together.
The October Ministerial Statement outlined the importance of helping Singapore workers upskill to stay relevant and continue to get good jobs. Close to $5 billion has been set aside over 3 years to achieve this, through schemes such as the SkillsFuture movement, Global Ready Talent Programme, and the SkillsFuture Leadership Development Initiative.
There’s also a Human Capital Partnership programme in place to recognise fair and progressive employers of choice who take the time and effort to develop their workers.
The outcome is promising. For example, about 9 in 10 jobseekers who underwent the Professional Conversion Programme remained in employment 2 years after placement, and 70% of those had a salary increment since they started their new job.
More is also being done for vulnerable, differently-abled, and lower-wage workers, in order to foster a more inclusive Singapore. These include addressing skills gaps, providing higher wage support/course fee subsidies for mature and older workers (i.e. SkillsFuture Mid-Career Support Package), Workfare Skills Support scheme for lower-income workers from July 2020, shifting employer mindsets, job redesign and more.
These moves help usher in a more dynamic and inclusive economy, which helps to cement our nation’s global position and to ensure all in Singapore are poised for greater growth.
3. Building up Singapore’s economic resilience and sustainability
|Investing in economic resilience and sustainability as a source of competitive advantage. Our resilience can be a source of growth, at many levels — for our individuals, industries, nation, and the world.
Growth cannot be a one-off step; it has to be sustainable and resilient, so that our efforts will not be wasted.
We need to better safeguard against and bounce back better from “shocks” like Covid-19 (such as having a national stockpile of essentials and a diverse network of trading partners). By growing new high-value export industries, Singaporeans will have more good jobs, and the transformation of industries will help build a sustainable economy as well as tap new opportunities from the green economy.
Being self-sufficient decreases the need to rely on others, which can be crucial during a global crisis. Singapore has been working towards a 30% local food production target by 2030 to hedge against food supply disruptions. No worries about going hungry!
Climate change is another worrying issue (and there’s no denying how hot and humid our Little Red Dot already is). The October Ministerial Statement addressed the ongoing investment in research into energy and resource efficiency technologies, R&D in the decarbonisation of the economy and other sustainable initiatives with incentives for businesses.
For example, the Zero Waste Masterplan promotes the circular economy and encourages businesses that convert waste into useful resources. There’ll also be the increased deployment of renewable energy sources, R&D into new capabilities and solutions like hydrogen and carbon capture, low-carbon energy solutions, and more.
One of the goals is to establish Singapore as a carbon services hub in Asia, while creating more good jobs in the green space, especially for engineering, legal and consultancy roles. Singaporeans will also have a more sustainable and liveable place to call home.
The ultimate aim of the government’s refreshed economic strategy is to help Singaporeans — first to emerge from Covid-19 stronger, and in the longer-term, to grow more resilient and responsive to future crises.
We’ll build ourselves up from the inside out, in order to grow together as a nation and create better lives and opportunities.
As DPM Heng said in his speech: “…Let me stress that everything this Government does to protect, re-open, and grow our economy — we do, not for the economy’s sake, but for our people. We strive to secure a way for Singapore to continue to make a good living, so that Singaporeans can have a good life.”
Find out more about the October Ministerial Statement and Singapore’s refreshed economic strategy on the Singapore Budget 2020 website.