Looking at the current economic conditions due to the impact of COVID-19, the Government must provide greater assistance while we moving forward as the current assistances given – Resilience Budget and Solidarity Budget – are not enough to help Singaporeans and local businesses, says Leong Mun Wai, Assistant Secretary-General (ASG) of Progress Singapore Party (PSP).
During the Cantonese online talk show “Voices and Chatter” that uploaded by the party on Wednesday (29 April), Mr Leong shared about his opinion on the government stimulus package which aimed to support the livelihood of Singaporeans amidst COVID-19 pandemic.
Noting that the COVID-19 will leave a huge mark on the economic even after the pandemic is over, Mr Leong commended the Government worked well to improve the situation as they rolled out the third stimulus package – the Solidarity Budget that introduced by the Government on 6 April – that allocates additional $5.1 billion to help households and businesses to stand against the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, he remarked, “But we still believe the assistance given is not enough.”
The $600 cash payout under the Solidarity Budget which will benefit for all Singaporeans who above 21 years-old, he said “seems insufficient” after deducting the expenses such as food, water and electricity, given that people and local businesses need more supports beyond that.
On top of that, the $48 billion allocated in the second stimulus package — called the Resilience Budget, was also not fully granted for the affected local businesses and people, according to Mr Leong.
Of the $48 billion, he said $20 billion is reserved for guarantees on loan and $28 billion is directly given to the local businesses and people, while the large portion of that $28 billion will go to property owners’ tax rebates.
“After deducting this, $20 billion trickles down to individuals and businesses,” he said, noting that it is insufficient in term of assistance to support the people.
Very few self-employed persons can meet the eligibility criteria for SIRS, Leong Mun Wai says, “They can see it, but cannot taste it”
Though the Government has introduced a “good stimulus package” – as it’s the first time to include the self-employed persons in government support scheme, but “when you look closer at the details, it does not work that well,” says Mr Leong.
Touching on the Self-Employed Person Income Relief Scheme (SIRS) under the Resilience Budget, he first pointed out the official headcount of self-employed person by the Government is “too low” as it should not just be 88,000 people who eligible for the Scheme if include the registered private-hire drivers, tax drivers, small business owners and others.
Aside from this, he also mentioned that the criteria to apply for the Scheme are “too strict”, in which many self-employed people complaint that it is difficult to qualify for this assistance given by the Government.
Among the criteria which is difficult to meet, he said – including own a property with an annual value of no more than $13,000 and earn a annual Net Trade Income of no more than $100,000.
He noted, “Very few self-employed persons can meet the eligibility criteria. In this way, many cannot benefit from the stimulus package. And, as a result, they are very unhappy.”
“They can see it, but cannot taste it,” he bantered.
As the economic impacted greatly by the pandemic, Mr Leong voiced out that it is crucial for the Government to develop new economic models while encouraging the Government to deliver more economic stimulus package “if need be in the future”.
“In the long run, after the pandemic is over, the economic structure has to be reviewed. Devising new economic models will be of great importance,” he said.
MOM: 100,000 self-employed persons eligible for SIRS, compared to 88,000 before the eligibility changes
As part of Solidarity Budget, Minister for Manpower (MOM) on 6 April has changed the eligibility for SIRS where the annual value of property threshold has been raised up to $21,000.
With the eligibility changes, the number of those automatically eligible for the Scheme will be approximately 100,000 self-employed persons, compared to 88,000 before.
While the SIRS started to receive appeals on Monday (27 April), it was reported that the website for the SIRS application has been closed on the second day due to the massive surge caused by major connectivity problems for users, according to secretary-general of the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) Ng Chee Meng.
As seen by TOC today (30 April), the website stated that the application page is still “experiencing high traffic”, so it have put measures in place to control the traffic on their website.