Singapore’s arts and culture industry will receive an additional S$55 million in aid through a specific package in a S$48 billion supplementary budget announced by Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat yesterday (26 Mar).
The additional funding, said Mr Heng, “will save jobs and support upskilling and digitalisation of the sector”.
Delivering his ministerial statement in Parliament on Thu (26 Mar), Mr Heng said that the new stimulus package — called the Resilience Budget — focuses on the need to “save jobs, support workers and protect” the livelihood of Singaporeans in the midst of a weakened economy as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
While all industries across Singapore will benefit from the enhancements present in the Resilience Budget, the arts and culture sector is one of the sectors that will be receiving targeted financial support in the supplementary Budget.
“First, we will provide additional support to major companies and leading arts groups, which are integral to our vibrant arts scene. This will help safeguard jobs, and retain capabilities in our local arts ecosystem.
“Second, we will enhance the National Arts Council’s Capability Development Scheme for the Arts to deepen skills and support the professional development of arts organisations and practitioners.
“Third, we will step up digitalisation efforts by building the sector’s digital capabilities and establishing more digital arts platforms which can reach out to new audiences,” said Mr Heng.
Freelance arts and culture practitioners in Singapore — who, as observed by renowned local playwright Alfian Sa’at on 19 Mar — have been “badly affected due to the global pandemic as they had their gigs cancelled, events postponed, and payments delayed”.
Noting that freelancers were influenced by market ups and downs, he described the freelancers’ careers as “bulimic”, saying that they need to work for long hours during the peak periods and go on a break during inactive periods.
“At this particular moment, the boom is deferred indefinitely, and the bust is corroding their savings,” he explained.
Singapore’s Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu yesterday encouraged freelancers in the arts and culture sector to participate in a survey by the National Arts Council and to subscribe to the Arts Resource Hub (ARH) — which provides “shared resources and services” — during the COVID-19 crisis.
“This will help us better understand how you are impacted by COVID-19. You will also receive timely updates on our support programmes,” she said.
The survey will end at 5pm on 5 Apr.
Ms Fu also said that “the arts can be the light to uplift our spirits in these times of darkness”.
“We need to adapt and innovate as a community and as a nation,” she added, referring to the new measures in the Resilience Package at digitalising and innovating the arts and culture sector in Singapore.
Just a day prior on Wed (25 Mar), Germany announced that it will be injecting a whopping €50 billion — or nearly S$79 billion — for the country’s arts and culture sector.
The financial aid will channelled in the form of grants designed to help with overhead costs like venue rentals and artist studios, ArtNet reported. In addition to arts-related individuals and organizations, the funding will support media enterprises, including newspapers.
Culture Minister Monika Grütters in a statement said: “We know the hardships, we know the desperation … The cultural sector in particular is characterized by a high proportion of self-employed people who now have problems with their livelihoods”.
She added: “Help is coming as quickly and with as little bureaucracy as possible!”
Freelancers in the creative industries in Germany will also have access to social security — which includes unemployment insurance — for six months.
Legal protections will also be given to those unable to pay their rent as a result of a loss of income, in addition to deferment of loans and tax reductions.