I applaud the government for its quick announcements of financial packages to help businesses and individuals who will be affected by the global COVID-19 outbreak.
There is no doubt that this health crisis will severely affect the economy. Not just the local economy but internationally as well. Times will be hard and it is heartening that the government has realised this and is taking active steps to try and alleviate the financial hardships that will follow.
Among other things, a COVID-19 Support Grant will be introduced from May to September to help those who have lost or will lose their jobs due to the COVID-19 situation. Bearing in mind, that we are still only at the end of March, will those who have tight budgetary constraints be able to last till May?
Rumour has it that the General Elections in Singapore will be held sooner rather than later. With that in mind, is there a possibility that payouts will only be made after the General Election?
Given that the question of when the General Elections will be held is still looming, will the timing of the payouts affect how people will vote? Having the payouts not immediate but after date of election could lead voters to be concerned that if they did not vote for the incumbent People’s Actions Party (PAP) that they will not get the money that is promised?
The timing of the payouts may all just be nothing more than a logistics issue but given that people who will need this grant will be those that genuinely are in financial straits, is there any reason why such grants will only be made available from May to September? How does the timing marry up with the apparently imminent General Elections?
I am of course not suggesting that the timing is deliberate. It could all just be a coincidence. My concerns however lie with:
1 . The individuals who may desperately need the money sooner; and
2. Those who may feel (unwittingly or otherwise) that they have no choice but to vote for the PAP out of fear that they won’t get their monies otherwise.
Of course, our votes are supposed to be secret and so there is no reason why this should be the case. That said, that fear might well be there (especially if one was in financial straits) thereby creating an uneven playing field for opposition political parties.
Our national reserves which will be funding these bailouts belong to the people of Singapore regardless of which party is in charge. In a single party system such as ours however, the lines do sometimes get blurred.
In the absence of a General Election date and with the General Election date likely to be earlier than May or around that period of time, it should perhaps be made clear by the government that the results of the upcoming General Elections will have no bearing on the bailout package whatsoever. Otherwise, people could unwittingly be held at ransom.