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Singapore’s Budget will include a ‘strong’ package to counter virus

People queue to buy protective masks at Mustafa Centre on February 8, 2020 in Singapore. (PHOTO: Suhaimi Abdullah/Getty Images)

By Faris Mokhtar, Juliette Saly and Philip J. Heijmans

(Bloomberg) -- Singapore will roll out a “strong” economic package next week as part of its national budget to mitigate the economic fallout from coronavirus in the trade-reliant city-state.

“We know there is economic impact. Already the specific sectors are feeling it – tourism, hospitality – but beyond these specific sectors, we think the broader knock on impact can be quite severe as well,” Lawrence Wong, Minister for National Development who co-chairs the multi-ministry task force set up to coordinate Singapore’s response to the virus, said in a Bloomberg TV interview.

Wong declined to reveal the size of the package or whether it will be bigger than the S$230 million (US$166 million) SARS relief package rolled out during the 2003 pandemic, which also battered the city-state’s economy at the time. The SARS relief package contained property tax rebates and a bridging loan program for small and medium-sized firms to help them with short-term cash-flow problems.

Wong said supply chains are already being disrupted, and the hit to China’s economy will have an impact on the global economy. Singapore will “surely be impacted” in such a scenario, he said.

“We are preparing for a strong package in the coming budget to help our companies as well as to help workers stay in their jobs,” Wong said. Singapore is set to announce its budget February 18.

The city-state is already bracing for its economy to be hit harder by the coronavirus than SARS. It’s expecting as much as a 30% decline in tourist arrivals and spending this year. In a report last week, DBS Group Holdings Ltd. said it sees a decline of 1 million tourists, equal to about a S$1 billion loss in spending, for every three months travel bans are in place.

Singapore currently has 47 confirmed cases of the virus, one of the largest number of infections outside of China. In response to the growing number of locally-transmitted cases, the government on Friday raised its national disease response level to Orange, its second-highest level and the same one used during the 2003 SARS epidemic.

© 2020 Bloomberg L.P.