Singapore on Tuesday downgraded its growth projection for this year to a range of -7% to -4%, from the previous forecast of -4% to -1%, suggesting prolonged economic damage from the coronavirus pandemic despite the phased business resumption starting next week.
The city-state the same day reported a 0.7% decline in its first-quarter gross domestic product. Later, the government announced additional support for affected businesses worth 33 billion Singapore dollars ($23 billion).
"Outward-oriented sectors such as manufacturing, wholesale trade, and transportation and storage will be adversely affected by the sharper-than-expected slowdown in many of Singapore's key markets, as well as more prolonged supply chain disruptions," Gabriel Lim, permanent secretary at Singapore's Ministry of Trade and Industry, said of the GDP figures during an online news conference.
He added that Singapore's domestic economic activity has also been dampened due to workplace shutdowns. Sectors like construction and marine and offshore engineering have been "severely affected by manpower shortages due to the outbreak of infections among foreign workers," especially those living in dormitories that had massive coronavirus outbreaks.
Singapore as of Monday had a total of 31,960 confirmed coronavirus cases the highest in Southeast Asia due to outbreaks in migrant worker dormitories. Twenty-three patients have died. The government, which has already allowed limited early reopenings, plans to allow more from June 2, but it is expected to take months for all business to resume.
The new aid package includes 75% wage support for entities that are not allowed to reopen next week, such as retailers, along with rent relief for small and midsize enterprises as well as help for promising startups. This adds to the roughly SG$60 billion in relief including wage subsidies and cash handouts that the government has already introduced.
The total support packages equate to 19% of the country's annual GDP.
As a small, trade-reliant economy, Singapore has been hit hard by the pandemic. The first-quarter result, which was better than the official estimate of a 2.2% contraction, marked the first negative growth since the 2008-2009 global financial crisis. It was also one of Southeast Asia's weaker performances: Thailand's economy shrank 1.8% in the first quarter, while Indonesia and Malaysia secured sluggish growth of 2.97% and 0.7%, respectively.
Singapore's manufacturing sector grew 6.6% as it saw rising output in the pharmaceutical industry. But the services sector fell 2.4% in the first quarter. ■
Hazardous air quality and widespread smoky conditions will persist through Wednesday afternoon and evening throughout the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic as smoke associated with wildfires in Canada continues to push southward into the lower 48.