Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat addressed Singapore’s approach for the next six months amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
After a few difficult months, the COVID-19 situation in Singapore has stabilised.
Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat made the remark in Parliament on Tuesday (Oct 6) as part of his ministerial statement.
Singapore has recorded less than 20 COVD-19 cases daily since October. Over the last five days, the number of new cases have not crossed double digits as well.
Mr Heng, who is also the Finance Minister, addressed some points about Singapore’s approach for the next six months as the country continues to chart their way forward from the pandemic.
The minister revealed that Singapore is working “actively” to secure early access to safe and effective vaccines, if and when they become available.
As part of the move, Singapore has been an early supporter of the COVID-19 Vaccine Global Access (COVAX) Facility, which accelerates the development and production of potential COVID-19 vaccines. In fact, Singapore co-chairs the Friends of the COVAX Facility group to promote vaccine multilateralisation, together with Switzerland.
Aside from that, Singapore is also pursuing the procurement of COVID-19 vaccines with “a number of pharmaceutical companies”. Authorities are also supporting local efforts to develop a vaccine and build up vaccine manufacturing capabilities.
Last month, Minister Lawrence Wong, who co-chairs the Multi-Ministry Taskforce for COVID-19, said that the Government was already working on a roadmap towards Phase 3.
Minister Heng said on Tuesday that the taskforce will be releasing more details in the “coming weeks”.
Information such as the expected timeline for moving to Phase 3, changes to current regulations on the size of group gatherings and participation at mass events, will be revealed then.
The Enhanced Training Support Package (ETSP), which provides employers with subsidies to send workers for training during downtime, will be extended for another six months until June next year.
The ETSP, which covers the air transport, retail and tourism sectors currently, will cover the marine and offshore sector from Tuesday. However, absentee payroll rates will be lowered to 80 per cent, capped at $7.50 per hour, from January 2021 in light of the recovering economic situation.
Authorities will continue to provide strong support to growing firms so that Singapore workers can move to growth areas, stay employed and build new skills.
“We have enhanced support for startups, via the Startup SG Founder programme. Since…August, more than 500 aspiring entrepreneurs have signed up for the three-month Venture Building programmes,” said DPM Heng.
“We will provide wage support of between 25 per cent and 50 per cent for each new local hire in firms which increase their total local headcount, through the Jobs Growth Incentive (JGI). The support will be for the first $5,000 of gross monthly wages for up to 12 months.
“As persons with disabilities may face greater challenges in finding jobs, I will provide the higher tier of wage support of 50 per cent under the JGI to all persons with disabilities. This will apply to new hires of persons with disabilities from September 2020 to February 2021.”
The minister added that authorities will extend or enhance capability-building grants like the Market Readiness Assistance Grant, Productivity Solutions Grant, Enterprise Development Grant and the PACT programme.
Details will be announced by the Ministry of Trade and Information in the coming weeks.
Minister Heng said: “The best way to protect the welfare of our workers is a good job. By helping viable firms stay afloat during this difficult period, they can retain their workers. By helping firms to restructure and retrain their workers, they can emerge stronger.”
He added that having more competitive and productive firms means that Singaporeans workers will have better jobs and prospects. At the same time, having more skilled and committed workers will make Singapore firms more competitive.
There will be support for households, said DPM Heng. This month, eligible households will receive the GST Voucher – U-Save, the first tranche of Grocery Vouchers and Service and Conservancy Charges (S&CC) rebates.
Eligible lower-income workers will also receive the October tranche of Workfare Special Payment.
Authorities have also received feedback that the pandemic has caused some aspiring parents to postpone their parenthood plans.
To address this, the Government will introduce a one-off additional support for newborns. This will be on top of the Baby Bonus Cash Gift, which provides eligible parents up to $10,000 in benefits.
More details will be shared soon, said Mr Heng.
Concluding his statement, Minister Heng said that Singapore should look to emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic stronger as a society, and more united as a people.
“We want to build an endearing home for future generations, and a fair and caring society based on what we stand for as one people,” he said.
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