SINGAPORE: Singapore on Tuesday announced financial packages worth around US$4.5 bil (RM18.7 bil) to help contain the coronavirus outbreak in the city-state and weather its economic impact.

Delivering his annual budget speech, Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat also said a planned hike in goods and services tax would not take place in 2021 given the current state of the economy which recorded its lowest growth in a decade last year.

Singapore has already cut its 2020 growth forecasts due to an expected economic blow from the new coronavirus outbreak and flagged the chance of a recession this year.

“Just as the global economy was beginning to recover, the coronavirus… outbreak hit us,” said Heng. “The outbreak will certainly impact our economy… Our first concern is to protect you and your families.”

The schemes involve an S$800 mil (RM2.4 bil) package to fight and contain the disease, mainly through additional healthcare funding, and a further S$5.6 bil in measures to help manage its impact on businesses and jobs.

The economic packages include support for businesses to manage wage bills, corporate income tax rebates and specific schemes to help firms in the hard-hit tourism and aviation sectors.

The Southeast Asian city-state has reported 77 cases of the virus to date, one of the highest tallies outside China where it has claimed over 1,800 lives.

The economic fallout from the epidemic spread to US technology titan Apple, which warned of iPhone shortages and lower than expected revenue, while South Korea’s president called the situation in his country an economic emergency. – Feb 18, 2020, Reuters

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