Parliament: $8 billion Covid-19 support package to be debated in October sitting

SINGAPORE – A Bill setting out details of provisions to meet additional expenditure amounting to $8 billion will be tabled in Parliament next month for debate, said Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat on Friday (Sept 4).

This third Supplementary Supply Bill will go through the usual parliamentary proceedings and has to be assented to by the President.

The money is the Government’s swift response to the fast-evolving situation arising from the Covid-19 pandemic, added Mr Heng, who is also the Finance Minister and Coordinating Minister for Economic Affairs.

“I will share the plans with the public in a timely and clear fashion while ensuring full accountability for the use of public monies.”

He was responding to Mr Liang Eng Hwa (Bukit Panjang), Mr Lim Biow Chuan (Mountbatten) and Ms Cheng Li Hui (Tampines GRC), who had asked whether the extra $8 billion in Covid-19 support announced last month would be debated in Parliament.

In a ministerial statement last month, Mr Heng announced that the money would be spent to save jobs, create new ones and seize new growth opportunities.

On Friday, in his response to the MPs, he reiterated that these efforts will be funded by reallocating money not used in other areas like development projects.

The Government will not further tap Singapore’s reserves, he added.

Singapore had previously set aside nearly $100 billion across four Budgets for Covid-19 support packages, all of which were debated, passed by the House and subsequently approved by the President.

Mr Liang pointed out that Singapore’s revenue is projected to slide further, according to the latest Budget estimates last month. He asked if there was further scope to reallocate money from Singapore’s development expenditure to fund further spending.

He also noted that Singapore’s Constitution obliges the Government to keep a balanced Budget in each five-year term.

“How would the Government weigh the consideration of reallocating funds set aside for expenditures for development expenditures – which is our investment for the future as well – versus further drawdown on the reserves.”

Mr Heng replied that the main underutilisation for this financial year comes from development spending caused by construction delays owing to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“For this financial year, there is still some scope – albeit very limited – for us to consider reallocation across the various heads of expenditure,” he said.

“But for future years, we are now carefully reviewing the timeline for many of the development projects… We must continue to budget very carefully in reallocating monies from the development expenditure.”

Going forward, Singapore’s fiscal position will be challenging, he added. “Revenues are coming down while some expenditures continue to go up, and the situation continues to be very fluid.”

It remains unclear how the Covid-19 situation will play out, Mr Heng said. “So we’ll have to examine the various options very carefully, but with a clear goal of enabling us to navigate through this very major crisis, and to emerge stronger.”

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