Coronavirus pandemic

Fortitude Budget and securing jobs on House agenda

MPs also want to know the measures in place as Singapore enters first phase of reopening

A $33 billion supplementary Budget to fund Covid-19 support measures will be debated today, when Parliament sits. Several Cabinet ministers will speak on the proposed Budget, which Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat dubbed the Fortitude Budget when he unveiled it in Parliament on May 26.

Communications and Information Minister S. Iswaran will talk about what his ministry will do to create job opportunities, transform businesses and build an inclusive digital society.

Manpower Minister Josephine Teo will speak on the SGUnited Jobs and Skills Package that seeks to create 100,000 jobs and training places to help workers and job seekers get through the coming months.

National Trades Union Congress secretary-general Ng Chee Meng as well as labour MPs will share their strategies to secure the livelihoods of workers in various industries.

MPs have also submitted questions on the pandemic, according to the agenda on the sitting issued by the Clerk of Parliament yesterday.

The proposed Fortitude Budget is aimed at helping workers and businesses tide over the Covid-19 crisis and the bleak economic outlook. It requires a draw of $31 billion from past reserves, for which President Halimah Yacob has given in-principle support. It has set aside $2.9 billion for job protection, including enhancements to the Jobs Support Scheme, which co-pays salaries to help firms retain workers.

The Fortitude Budget also provides $3.8 billion to fund measures announced earlier to help Singaporeans get through the four-week extension of the circuit breaker. The initial month-long circuit breaker, with all schools and most workplaces shut, began on April 7. It was to have ended on May 4, but was extended to June 1.

With the exit from the circuit breaker, MPs want to know the measures in place as Singapore enters the first phase of its reopening.

Mr Chong Kee Hiong (Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC) will ask the Health Minister which countries or cities that have eased their restrictions Singapore will model itself after.

Mr Lim Biow Chuan (Mountbatten) told The Straits Times he wants the Government to consider letting food and beverage outlets open for business in the first phase, on the condition that they implement safe distancing and put a reasonable cap on the number of diners at each table. "The concern is that many restaurants are struggling. They can do takeaways which, however, is not the same as going into full operations. My fear is if we keep saying no, then some will not recover.

"Safety is still important. When hawker centres were operational, we marked out one seat and left the next one empty. We could allow F&B outlets to do the same."

Mr Seah Kian Peng (Marine Parade GRC) will ask the Government for a temporary reduction of Central Provident Fund contributions by both employee and employer until the economy recovers.

RELOOK CURBS ON DINING IN

The concern is that many restaurants are struggling. They can do takeaways which, however, is not the same as going into full operations. My fear is if we keep saying no, then some will not recover.

MOUNTBATTEN MP LIM BIOW CHUAN, who wants the Government to consider letting food and beverage outlets open for business in the first phase, on the condition that they implement safe distancing and put a reasonable cap on the number of diners at each table.

On the TraceTogether app, Mr Vikram Nair (Sembawang GRC) wants to know if it will be mandatory to download it, while Mr Murali Pillai (Bukit Batok) will ask what steps are being taken by the Government to ensure the personal data collected is not misused.

Mr Nair said people had asked him: "Why shouldn't we make it mandatory?" With more people out and about now, it would make sense to make it mandatory, he added. "It is similar to wearing a mask. If you make it mandatory, people will follow, and in this case, people will take the effort to download the app."