EU finance ministers have agreed a €500bn ($540bn) rescue package for European countries hit hard by the covid-19 pandemic, while Ireland and Singapore extend national aid schemes
The chairman of the Eurogroup, Mário Centeno, announced the deal on 9 April, reached after marathon discussions in Brussels. But the ministers failed to accept a demand from France and Italy to share out the cost of the crisis by issuing so-called coronabonds.
The main component of the rescue plan involves the European Stability Mechanism, the EU’s bailout fund, which will make €240bn available to guarantee spending by indebted countries under pressure.
The EU ministers also agreed other measures including €200bn in guarantees from the European Investment Bank and a European Commission project for national short-time working schemes.
The news came after a number of countries around the world announced further aid packages for their own economies. Ireland’s government revealed €1bn in liquidity measures available for SMEs, including a €180m Sustaining Enterprise Fund, while Singapore announced another 5.1bn Singapore dollars ($3.6bn) in stimulus to soften the economic damage from the ongoing covid-19 outbreak.
The Irish move will see an additional €450m of lending provided through the Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland (SBCI) for SMEs in all sectors including agri-food. This will provide much needed liquidity for firms and bring total SBCI covid-19 lending capacity up to €650m with loans available through the pillar banks.
In addition, the Irish government announced a €180m Sustaining Enterprise Fund for firms in the manufacturing and international services sectors.
In Singapore, Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat announced measures that included wage subsidies for all companies, rental waivers and cash payouts for all adult Singaporeans. This is the third stimulus package that Singapore has announced since the outbreak. Together with the previous two packages, the Southeast Asian country has set aside 59.9 billion Singapore dollars, accounting for around 12% of the country’s gross domestic product.