SINGAPORE: Singapore’s economic recovery in the months ahead will be “challenging”, with the journey “slow and uneven”, said Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing on Tuesday (Jul 14).
Mr Chan’s comments came after official advance estimates showed Singapore’s gross domestic product (GDP) contracted 41.2 per cent on a quarter-on-quarter seasonally adjusted annualised basis in the April to June period, taking the economy into a technical recession.
Several months of COVID-19 restrictions and workplace closures have battered Singapore’s construction, retail and tourism sectors, and the authorities had already flagged that the outbreak would pose severe strains on the economy.
“The numbers clearly reflect the extent of the challenges facing our economy amid the COVID-19 pandemic and the hard work ahead of us to restore the economy,” said Mr Chan in a Facebook post after the release of the GDP preliminary data, adding that the figures were expected.
“The road to recovery in the months ahead will be challenging. We expect recovery to be a slow and uneven journey, as external demand continues to be weak and countries battle the second and third waves of outbreaks by reinstating localised lockdowns or stricter safe distancing measures,” he added.
Singapore imposed a circuit breaker period on Apr 7 to stem the spread of COVID-19, shuttering all non-essential businesses. It exited the circuit breaker on Jun 1 and entered phase two of the reopening on Jun 19, which allowed retail shops to reopen and restaurants to resume dine-ins while observing social distancing.
To nurse the economic pain, the Government has announced four support packages worth close to S$100 billion, or nearly 20 per cent of GDP, so far.
Still, the authorities have said they expect Singapore’s GDP to shrink between 4 and 7 per cent this year.
Mr Chan said on Tuesday that the pace of Singapore’s recovery will depend on how well the public health situation is managed and whether community infections can be kept low.
Singapore’s tally of COVID-19 cases stands at 46,283, with 26 fatalities. The number of new cases in the community has been on the rise, from an average of 12 cases per day in the week before, to an average of 14 per day in the past week.
“My assurance to our people and businesses is this – the Government will continue to walk this challenging journey with all of you,” said Mr Chan.
Beyond providing support to businesses to help them overcome their immediate challenges and save “as many jobs” as possible, the Government will also continue to “press on with transformation” to help them adjust to new realities and operating models, said Mr Chan.
More will be done to help workers to adapt and also equip them with the necessary skills to remain vigilant and stay employable regardless of their age, he said.
Separately, NTUC assistant secretary-general Patrick Tay said the latest GDP figure paints a “sombre and worrying” outlook for Singapore’s economy for the rest of the year.
Urging workers to brace themselves for a “rough ride ahead”, Mr Tay said in a Facebook post that he expects a “sharp spike” in retrenchments and unemployment figures when second quarter labour market statistics are released at the end of the month.