March 12, 2020 / 4:42 AM / 20 days ago

Singapore weighs tapping reserves for virus fight in rare move

Immigration and Checkpoints Authority staff members wait for arriving passengers at a temperature screening station at the Singapore Cruise Center, following the coronavirus outbreak in Singapore March 5, 2020. REUTERS/Edgar Su/Files

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Singapore is considering tapping its national reserves to fund a second economic package to weather the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on businesses and workers, the city-state’s president said.

It would be the first such move to bankroll economic stimulus since 2009, when the global financial crisis rocked the Asian financial hub, although reserves are used selectively for land acquisitions.

“Many of our companies, particularly those related to the tourism industry, but more broadly other sectors as well, are bleeding because of disrupted supply chains, rapidly falling demand and tightening cash flows,” President Halimah Yacob said on Facebook.

“We must do our utmost to support our people and our businesses, including considering using the Past Reserves if necessary,” said Halimah, referring to funds accumulated during previous terms of government.

Although mostly ceremonial, Singapore’s president must approve the use of government reserves. The government drew down S$4 billion ($2.9 billion)in 2009 from the reserves, the full size of which it does not disclose to protect national interests.

Singapore’s finance minister said on Wednesday it is preparing another stimulus package for businesses and workers impacted by the pandemic, just weeks after it unveiled billions of dollars in virus-fighting schemes in its annual budget.

Singapore, which has over 170 coronavirus cases, has won international praise for its containment efforts but officials have warned that infections will rise in the global transit hub as the disease spreads around the world.

($1 = 1.3980 Singapore dollars)

Reporting by Aradhana Aravindan and John Geddie in Singapore; Editing by Shri Navaratnam

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