Covid-19 Budget Broadcast ‘Earlier’ To Give Businesses & Workers Clarity: Indranee

Last Monday (17 Aug), Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat revealed a 5th set of Covid-19 budget support measures for Singaporean businesses and workers amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

While the previous 4 such announcements were made by Mr Heng in Parliament, the 5th one was unusual in that it was broadcast online via social media while Parliament wasn’t in session.

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Questions were made about this practice, amid concerns that the measures may not be properly debated in Parliament.

This prompted newly minted Leader of the House Indranee Rajah to explain the situation in a Facebook post on Sunday (23 Aug) night.

She said announcing the measures via broadcast first, before Parliament has opened, will give Members of Parliament (MPs) and the public time to consider the measures before they’re debated in Parliament.

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Budget measures usually announced ahead of time

The “advance” ministerial statement by Mr Heng actually wasn’t delivered in that much of a different way, said Ms Indranee, who is also Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office, Second Minister for Finance and Second Minister for National Development.

Significant Budget measures are usually announced ahead of time, she added.

For example, the annual Budget statement that’s typically made in February – this year it was called the Unity Budget – is usually debated only a week after being announced.

This is because, Ms Indranee said,

This gives the MPs time to form their views on the plans. It also gives the public time to provide feedback to their MPs and the ministries.

Thus, whatever measures that are announced will still be subject to debate in Parliament.

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Some Covid-19 budget measures expiring soon

In her Facebook post, Ms Indranee also pointed out that some of the measures outlined in the previous 4 Budgets this year – Unity (18 Feb), Resilience (26 Mar), Solidarity (6 Apr) and Fortitude (26 May) – are expiring soon.

For example, the Jobs Support Scheme was expiring in August, and if Mr Heng didn’t announce earlier that it would be extended till March 2021, many jobs would have been at stake.

Businesses and workers thus needed clarity on how the Government was planning to further support them so they would know how to prepare for the coming months.

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No time for ministerial statements on 24 Aug

Although Parliament officially opens today (24 Aug), there won’t be time for any ministerial statements.

That’s because there are 3 things to be done:

  1. The election of speaker
  2. Swearing in of MPs
  3. The delivery of the President’s Address

There also won’t be time on 31 Aug, the 1st business sitting of Parliament, for ministerial statements.

That’s because between 24 Aug and 31 Aug, MPs and the public would have to consider a lot of things in the President’s Address.

Also, if the ministerial statement was delivered on 31 Aug, there wouldn’t be time for MPs to properly consider the measures before debating them.

Speaker of the house Tan Chuan-Jin in front of Parliament House.
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Support measures won’t escape Parliament

The latest support measures won’t escape Parliament scrutiny, Ms Indranee assured Singaporeans.

Given ample time since 17 Aug to take in what the ministerial statement said, MPs may and are encouraged to raise questions it in Parliament, she said.

In fact, the Government will propose a Supplementary Supply Bill in Parliament over the next few months.

It covers revised spending plans for 5th set of support measures, and it will go through Parliament readings in oder for approval to be gained.

Thus, thus there’s nothing amiss with the broadcast of the support measures, she says,

The Government remains accountable and all is still fully in accordance with good governance.

These are not ordinary circumstances, says TCJ

Speaker of the House Tan Chuan-Jin also weighed in on the matter in a Facebook post on Sunday (23 Aug), thanking Ms Indranee for her post.

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He said in ordinary circumstances, the Government would probably have waited till the next session of Parliament to make the ministerial statement.

However, these are not ordinary circumstances, and Singaporeans’ livelihoods are affected.

He also implied that the “broadcast” method of announcing measures may be used in future during urgent situations like these.

A glimpse of the new Parliament

When the 14th Parliament opens today (24 Aug), we’ll finally catch a glimpse of the new MPs and what they’ll be debating about in the form of the President’s Address.

It’s good to know that the 5th round of support of measures will be one of the things they’ll be discussing.

We wish all the new Parliamentarians all the best for the next 5 years of debates.

Featured image adapted from Facebook and Facebook.