COVID-19: S’pore allocates $350 mln to aviation sector

By Massita Ahmad

SINGAPORE, March 26 (NNN-BERNAMA) — The Singapore government is providing additional help to specific sectors that are most directly affected by COVID-19 that include the aviation sector.

In tabling the republic’s S$48 billion Supplementary Budget, Singapore Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat said the country’s air hub, with only international traffic, faces an even sharper impact from widespread international border closures.

As of March 24, 2020, Heng said daily passenger traffic has fallen by more than 90 per cent, while the Singapore Airlines Group (SIA Group) has announced a 96 per cent cut to their scheduled capacity up to end-April across their entire network.

“Our aviation sector has significant linkages to the rest of our economy. If it collapses in a crisis, it will be very hard for the aviation industries to rebuild after the crisis is over, and the recovery of the rest of the economy will be impeded.

“We must therefore ensure that this temporary shock to our air hub does not become a permanent one,” Heng, who is also Finance Minister, said.

Therefore, the government will introduce a $350 million enhanced aviation support package to fund measures such as rebates on landing and parking charges, and rental relief for airlines, ground handlers and cargo agents.

“This will also allow Singapore to retain a minimum level of connectivity to the world even during the pandemic. This is critical to enable overseas Singaporeans to return home and keep our supply lines for essential goods open,” he said.

Heng noted that the Changi Air Hub is an important pillar of the republic’s economy.

The hub and its adjacent industries contribute over 5.0 per cent of Singapore’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and employ approximately 192,000 people.

“It makes us an ideal Global-Asia node, where companies all over the world can access opportunities in Asia.

“It links us to the rest of the world. We are connected by more than 100 airlines to some 380 cities in about 100 countries and territories worldwide.

Heng noted that the SIA Group sits at the heart of the republic’s aviation ecosystem, and anchors its position as an air hub.

In 2019, the SIA Group accounted for over half of passenger traffic and cargo tonnage in Singapore.

“A diminished SIA will undermine our air hub’s ability to recover from the crisis,” he said.

This morning, the airline has requested a halt to trading of its securities.

Heng said he was informed that the SIA Group is considering a corporate action, supported by Temasek Holdings, and will be making an announcement in due course.

— NNN-BERNAMA