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Singapore economy looks to rebound in 2021; experts caution against addiction to grants

Amala Balakrishner
Amala Balakrishner1/15/2021 7:0 AM GMT+08  • 5 min read
Singapore economy looks to rebound in 2021; experts caution against addiction to grants
What lies ahead in Budget 2021?
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What a year 2020 had been, with the coronavirus upending industries, supply chains and the livelihoods of many across the world. Latest forecasts by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) put the contraction in the global economy at 4.4% for 2020 while growth is expected to “remain weak for years to come,” says Kon Yin Tong, president of the Institute of Singapore Chartered Accountants (ISCA). He was speaking at the Virtual Pre-Budget 2021 Roundtable on Jan 14 organised by the institute. However, things seem to be improving as the city-state’s unemployment rate last year had — for the first time — inched down to 3.3% in November 2020 from 3.6% in October 2020.

The drop follows the close to $100 billion in rescue and support measures doled out by the government across five key instalments. A key feature was the $23.5 billion Jobs Support Scheme (JSS) where the government co-pays the wage bills of 1.9 million Singaporeans across 140,000 companies, till March. Other initiatives included rental rebates, particularly for smaller businesses, as well as grants facilitating companies’ digitalisation efforts.

Market watchers argue that these efforts have prevented a further slowdown in Singapore’s economy by giving businesses much needed support. For instance, the JSS has “helped companies avoid layoffs, unless they were absolutely necessary,” says Lam Yi Young, CEO of the Singapore Business Federation (SBF), and a panellist at ISCA’s roundtable.

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