This was an Oral Question asked in Parliament by NCMP Mr Leong Mun Wai on 4th April 2022
Mr Leong Mun Wai asked the Minister for Finance (a) whether the breakdown of $100 billion COVID-19 related expenditure spent over the past two years mentioned in the Minister for Finance’s Budget Speech on 18 February 2022 is already publicly available; (b) whether the breakdown can be provided if not previously available; and (c) whether the object classes pertaining to the COVID-19 expenditure can be made available to the public.
Mr Lawrence Wong: Amid the rapidly evolving COVID-19 situation, MOF has been releasing our COVID-19 spending breakdown at several platforms, using the latest available data at that point in time.
In every annual Budget Statement, the Minister for Finance accounts for the broad categories of expenditure, including the amounts committed for COVID-19 measures, either in the speech or as an annex to the Budget Statement. FY2020 and FY2021 saw COVID-19 measures introduced over multiple Budgets (five Budgets in FY2020 and three Budgets in FY2021) to manage the rapidly evolving COVID-19 situation.
To find the FY2020 breakdown, Mr Leong may refer to the response to the PQ filed by Ms Foo Mee Har in January 2021 on how the $100 billion set aside to deal with the COVID-19 crisis was spent to support families, workers and businesses. We explained then that, of the $97.3 billion committed in FY2020, $13.8 billion was to support public health efforts, $73.5 billion was to protect livelihoods, through support for workers and businesses, and $10.0 billion was for direct social and household support.
We also provided our updated estimates to the Estimate Committee, which published its report in August 2021. In this public report, Mr Leong would be able to find the committed amounts across the FY2020 Budgets, as well as our revised estimates of COVID-19 spending based on the latest available information at that time, broken down into the specific expenditure items (e.g. Jobs Support Scheme, SGUnited Jobs and Skills Package and Jobs Growth Incentive). Our revised estimate of overall COVID-19 spending was around $70 billion in FY2020. As explained to the Estimates Committee, the Government had initially set aside loan capital in FY2020 in anticipation of a tight credit market. Eventually, the loan capital was not needed, as MAS, using its balance sheet, provided low-interest capital to participating financial institutions for ESG loans.
Since then, actual FY2020 spending was lower than our revised estimate published in August 2021. However, the underutilisation was made up for in the COVID-19 Resilience Package at Budget 2021, and our support packages rolled out over the heightened alerts and Stabilisation Phase from May to December 2021. Based on our latest estimates, we can expect the overall spending on COVID-19 for FY2020 and FY2021 to be broadly similar to the Estimates Committee report in August 2021.
FY2021 has just come to a close. When the actual spending in FY2021 has been finalised and audited around 3Q 2022, we will again take stock of the actual COVID-19 spending.
Mr Leong also asked about the object classes for COVID-19 spending. The Government’s expenditure is broken down into object classes based on the nature of spending. The broad categories of object classes are expenditure on manpower, other operating expenditure, grants, and transfers. As the nature of Government spending is not only limited to COVID-19, the same object class serves multiple functions, besides COVID-19 management. For example, many of our public officers have incorporated COVID-related duties into their day-to-day responsibilities. It would therefore not be meaningful or practicable to break down the COVID-19 expenditure items by object classes.
If Mr Leong is asking for this information to assess the outcomes of the various measures taken to protect lives and livelihoods, he can refer to two reports on MOF’s website. The first interim report was released in February 2021, and the second in February 2022. The more recent report assesses how our COVID-19 measures mitigated the short-term impact of the COVID-19 crisis on the economy and health, and also helped prevent the longer-term loss of human capital.