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Sustaining our arts, culture and sports sectors through COVID-19

Speech by Ms Grace Fu, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth at the Supplementary Budget Debate 2020

  1. The livelihoods of many Singaporeans in the arts, culture and sports sectors have been badly affected by COVID-19. Arts and sporting events, and CCAs, were cancelled or postponed even before the new circuit breaker measures that take effect today, 7 April. To deal with this unprecedented crisis, the government has introduced additional measures to protect livelihoods, help businesses overcome immediate challenges, and strengthen economic and social resilience. $55 million has been set aside for an Arts & Culture Resilience Package (ACRP) as part of the Resilience Budget. We will 

    i. protect livelihoods and careers in the arts, culture, and sports eco-systems, 
    ii. invest in capabilities that will position ourselves well for the post-COVID recovery, and 
    iii. digitalise these sectors to create new markets, provide new job opportunities and ensure that Singaporeans can continue to benefit from the arts, culture and sports.

    Ensuring retention of talent by sustaining livelihoods

  2. We must first protect the livelihoods of our arts, culture and sports practitioners. They have been badly affected. Individual professionals, such as freelancers, may tap on broad-based relief schemes like the Temporary Relief Fund and SEP Income Relief Scheme (SIRS), and defer their income tax payments and mortgage instalments. Depending on individual circumstances, an eligible arts or sports freelancer may potentially receive $12,000 from May to October 2020 from SIRS and the Enhanced Workfare Special Payment among the broad-based measures in the Resilience and Solidarity Budgets, before factoring other schemes.
  3. For companies, DPM announced that the government will co-fund 25% of the wages of every local employee under the enhanced Jobs Support Scheme (JSS) which will last till end-2020, and 75% for the month of April, in view of the heightened measures. This will support all eligible companies and employees in the arts, culture, and sports, sectors. MCCY will announce additional support for major companies, as well as leading arts and culture groups, shortly at a later date.
  4. To help companies and businesses further defray costs, all eligible tenants in MCCY-owned properties – be they in the arts and culture, youth, or sports – will benefit from the 2 months of rental waiver announced by DPM. This will benefit more than 300 tenants. These measures will provide some immediate relief for our arts and culture companies, and allow them to use this period – when they are working from home – to plan for the future with greater assurance and certainty.
  5. To further support employment in the sports sector, as part of the #SGUnited Jobs Initiative, we have identified more than 500 temporary job opportunities for various roles in the sports sector to support our national sports associations (NSAs), sports centres, academy and clubs as well as to support digital and exercise-science related capabilities. While many of these jobs will not be available while circuit breaker measures are in place, we are preparing them now so that we can start hiring as soon as these measures are relaxed.

    Upskilling the arts, culture and sports sectors

  6. Beyond relief support, we will invest in retaining and upskilling the arts, culture and sports professionals. We want to protect and sustain the breadth and depth of skillsets and talents in the eco-systems as much as possible. Practitioners in these sectors will already benefit from the $500 to $1,000 SkillsFuture Credit top-up, and the SEP Training Support Scheme. I encourage our practitioners to hone their professional skills, and explore new complementary skills through the many online courses that are available from home.
  7. For the sports sector, we have been working with partners to build up the range of Continuing Coach Education (CCE) courses to upskill our coaches and instructors. When the situation allows, coaches and instructors can avail themselves of more than 3,000 training opportunities by end-2020. This is in addition to the more than 2,000 ActiveSG SkillsFuture training opportunities currently available to coaches and instructors. These courses are either free or well-covered by training grants from SkillsFuture. We will progressively make more training programmes available to individuals in the sports sector. We will also set aside $100,000 for the Coach Development Grant (CDG), up from $30,000 in previous years, to cover coaches’ registration and course fees when they sign up for CCE courses.
  8. Arts and culture freelancers, as well as those in the wider creative sector who provide important complementary expertise such as sound and lighting professionals, hold essential capabilities for our arts and culture eco-system. The Arts Resource Hub (ARH) under the National Arts Council (NAC) has been set up to promote employability and sustainability of freelancers’ careers by providing resources and services. The ARH has been engaging and surveying a wide range of cultural and creative freelancers over the past months to better understand their profiles and the impact of COVID-19 on them. It helps us refine our range of shared resources and services, and provide reliable and relevant information to help them tide over this difficult period. Freelancers who have experienced contract cancellations can also seek advice from the ARH.  I strongly encourage all cultural and creative freelancers to sign up online with the ARH, at no cost, to enjoy the convenience of a centralised point-of-contact.
  9. This is the time for companies to invest in their employees. The Enhanced Training Support scheme announced by DPM provides absentee payroll to employers who send their employees for training in SkillsFuture courses, and is open to companies in the arts, culture and sports sectors. In addition, arts and culture organisations can apply for further support under the expanded Capability Development Scheme for the Arts (CDSA) administered by NAC, to send their employees for professional-led training courses, beyond those endorsed by SkillsFuture. In the coming months, NAC will list more online courses which are eligible for CDSA support. We have enhanced the CDSA so that Major Companies can now receive up to $20,000 for training, while other arts groups can receive up to $6,000. Up to 200 companies will benefit from this.
  10. In addition to organisations and their employees, we will also support the training of up to 6,000 freelancers through the CDSA. These freelancers can apply for the CDSA to participate in a variety of courses, including local and international online courses. These include masterclasses in graphic communication skills in outreach with digital media, and courses in creative writing, music production and studio recording. NAC will invite suggestions on training programmes and welcome courses by our major arts companies and established professionals who are keen to offer their skills and experience in their areas of expertise. Our freelancers can receive up to $1,000 for their training, which can cover both course fee subsidies and a training allowance of $10 per hour. Just like companies and their employees, freelancers can also use this time to apply for the CDSA and use it to take online courses, or for future training.

    Supporting cultural and sports activity through digitalisation

  11. Arts, culture and sports lift our spirits in these difficult times, and sustain our emotional and physical well-being. To ensure Singaporeans continue to have access to the arts, culture and sports during the next few months, our culture and sports agencies will be releasing digital content to engage Singaporeans even as we stay at home, provide enjoyment for the entire family, and encourage them to keep fit. Interested audiences can view available offerings at NAC’s A-List website, an integrated platform featuring cultural offerings from our cultural institutions, arts groups and artists to offer greater access and connectivity for audiences. A-List is already available with many exciting programmes and I urge members to check it out.
  12. We also want to step up ongoing digitalisation efforts to enhance capabilities of the arts and culture, and sports sectors, create new experiences for audiences and participants, and expand economic opportunities. Beyond bringing their products online, we see that it is a good time for the sector to acquire technical skills in data-analytics, audience sensing, online marketing and more.
  13. For the arts and culture sector, we have established a Digitalisation Fund to support arts and culture groups and practitioners, cultural institutions, and cultural festival organisers to go digital with their arts and culture content. NAC will offer a new Digitalisation Presentation Grant of up to $20,000 per project, to ramp up efforts in digitalisation of arts and culture content and delivery. This will be open to all arts and culture groups and practitioners, including freelancers. Artists and arts groups offering student-facing programmes including NAC Arts Education Programme (AEP) providers are encouraged to apply to NAC for this support to create digital content that can be offered for online use by schools. While some ideas may only be possible to execute after the circuit breaker measures, I encourage arts and culture groups and practitioners to prepare and submit their grant proposals now, so that they can bring their best work to Singaporeans once the situation improves. NAC also welcomes proposals which include creative means to develop digital projects while fully working from home.
  14. The Digitalisation Fund will support larger-scale digitalisation of existing festivals and projects. We are committed to continuing with our annual large-scale festivals through digital means. As far as possible, we will hold digital editions of Singapore Heritage Festival in June, Singapore Writers Festival and Arts in Your Neighbourhood in November, followed by Singapore Art Week in January 2021. They will involve virtual arts and culture presentations, workshops, and tours. NAC and Arts House Limited will work with local arts groups involved in the Singapore International Festival of the Arts 2020 to explore how they can offer innovative arts and culture experiences digitally later in the year.
  15. The Digitalisation Fund will also support the digitalisation of our museum exhibitions and collections. The National Heritage Board (NHB) will progressively make available virtual exhibitions of the galleries at our national museums and heritage institutions, so that Singaporeans and international visitors alike can experience and learn about our heritage without leaving their homes. NHB will also be working with Museum Roundtable members to support similar projects, and assist them in building up their digitalisation capabilities.
  16. We hope to roll out digital offerings by our arts groups in the coming months through multiple platforms and festivals. We aim to generate demand for the arts and culture sector, support over 200 new digital projects, and create more than 1,000 opportunities for our cultural and related practitioners once the circuit breaker measures are relaxed.
  17. SportSG will leverage technology to continue to engage Singaporeans in sports events and activities in this period. It will set up the ActiveSG Circle, a virtual sports centre in the form of an online platform. This will enable citizens to stay connected and active with an wide offering of content such as exercise videos, programmes, talks, workshops and even races through a virtual space. For this year’s Get Active! Singapore, we will also offer a new $2 million grant to support more than 50 projects for sports SEPs and businesses to develop initiatives that create digital or virtual content and provide innovative ways to deliver sports for Singaporeans to stay active and fit, in the lead up from now to National Day in August.
  18. Mr Speaker, allow me to say a few words in Mandarin.
  19. 在这个艰难时期,文化、社区及青年部致力于协助我们的文化艺术团体以及体育界业者克服疫情所带来的冲击。我们将推出5千5百万元的艺术文化坚韧配套,帮助业者保住工作,维持生计。首先,副总理之前宣布政府将通过加强版的“雇佣补贴计划” (JSS) 为每名本地员工提供百分之25的薪金补贴至今年底;而在4月实行阻断措施期间,政府也会提供百分之75的薪金补贴 ,以扶持文化艺术和体育领域的合格机构和员工们。文社青部也会为国家艺术理事会 “主要辅助计划” (Major Company Scheme) 之下的艺术团体以及其他的主要艺术机构提供额外援助,详情会在日后宣布。其次,文社青部旗下机构的所有合格租户将能获得两个月的租金回扣,以减轻开销。再者,我们也要通过“数码化提升基金”(Digitalisation Fund) 鼓励文化艺术领域加快数码化的步伐。最后,我们也鼓励艺术团体和工作者在这个期间参加培训,提高技能,为疫情过后做好准备。对此,我把艺理会的能力发展补贴升级版延长至2020年底,让更多文艺团体和工作者,包括自由工作者受惠。艺理会旗下的艺术资源中心 (ARH) 除了会继续为自由艺术工作者提供共享资源和服务,也会给予关于各政府部门所推出的援助配套的咨询, 更有效地帮助业者维持生计,渡过难关。

    Conclusion

  20. Mr Speaker, if I may summarise, the relief packages announced by DPM provide financial support to the individuals affected, sustain the eco-systems of these sectors by minimising the loss of capabilities, and raise the capabilities of the sectors in the physical and digital spaces. Individuals can benefit from financial reliefs, such as the Temporary Relief Fund, SIRS for freelancers and the COVID-19 Support Grant; training subsidies and grants in the Capability Development Scheme for the Arts to build their long-term capabilities. They will also benefit from the temporary jobs SportSG will be making available.
  21. Companies can benefit from wage support measures such as the enhanced JSS, and the Enhanced Training Support scheme and the CDSA. Our push to digitalise these sectors will provide economic opportunities to both individuals and companies, and allow them to continue bringing arts and sports experiences to Singaporeans. These schemes will be relevant even when circuit breaker measures are applicable, and will help us emerge stronger.
  22. Everyone has a part to play to overcome the situation we face. We are in this together, and the arts, culture, and sports communities must work together, work with the public, to protect the safety of our patrons, students and audiences. I urge larger and more established groups with deeper capabilities to help the smaller ones and individual practitioners, and ask that corporations, foundations and members of the public continue supporting the arts and culture and sports. All of us should take this time to prepare, with agility and resourcefulness, to welcome our audiences and students again with better creations, better works, greater competencies, and broader outreach. Our arts, culture and sports sectors have proven their resilience time and again. I am confident they will be ready with our best shows, most creative content, and highest quality classes once Singapore is ready for us, so that arts, culture and sports will be an even more important part of people’s lives. Covid-19 is a test, and we will rise to the occasion.
  23. Thank you, Mr Speaker.

 

Last updated on 07 April 2020