Singapore Budget 2020: What to look out for

With the coronavirus outbreak impacting businesses and workers in Singapore, substantial measures are expected to be announced in the Budget.
By: | February 18, 2020

The Singapore government will deliver a much anticipated and crucial Budget announcement on February 18 which is expected to support workers and businesses amidst the COVID-19 outbreak and possible recession.

The city-state has been one of the worst-hit countries by the outbreak, with over 70 cases reported so far. And that has inevitably impacted on businesses and workers, who will be looking for support from the government during these difficult times.

But the Budget will not just be focused on the short term stop-gap for the impact of the coronavirus outbreak, but long term restructuring and re-skilling of the workforce to prepare for rapid technological changes.

Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat, who will deliver the Budget said, “We will also support firms and workers to make the best use of this period to restructure, train, and upgrade so that we emerge stronger when the eventual upturn comes.”

We take a look at the measures that we can expect from the Budget for businesses and workers:

1) Relief package

This will be the immediate and most urgent measure that is expected from the Budget. The government is expected to provide a substantial relief package to help businesses and workers affected by the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong warned that the economic impact from the COVID-19 virus is already greater than Sars and he does not rule out a possible recession to hit the city-state.

2) Equipping businesses and re-skilling workers

As aforementioned, the need to prepare businesses and workers for technological and digitalisation changes remains one of the main priorities for the Singapore government. Measures and initiatives are expected to foster innovation and productivity using digital solutions and to help companies compete and scale internationally. Measures to help re-skill workers especially older ones are also expected.

Assistant Secretary-General of NTUC, Patrick Tay, said, “COVID-19 is happening at the same time as digital disruption, trade tensions and economic transformation. As such, in Budget 2020, there should be short term measures to help companies and businesses particularly in the deeply affected sectors so that the employment and livelihood of workers are not affected.

“At the same time, besides employment, we should continue our efforts in enhancing the employability of workers especially in the area of skills and training so that we can meet the challenges and transformation that lies ahead.”

3) Lifelong learning

This will be a continuation of the efforts by the government to promote lifelong learning, re-skilling and up-skilling of its citizens and workers. A top-up of Singaporean’s SkillsFuture credits is overdue as most of the citizens would have exhausted the initial $500 given by the government which can be used for courses. The budget might also increase the tax relief cap of $5,500 for Singaporeans who attend courses to upskill themselves.

“Besides short term help measures, medium and longer term ones are equally important. I hope to see targetted support for affected businesses and workers for the short term.” Tay added.

“At the same time, support Singaporeans in embracing lifelong learning especially mature workers and PMEs.  In this vein, topping up of skillsfuture credits and support/incentives for embracing hiring and re-employment of older workers ahead of the legislated timing are most welcomed.”