How the US shutdown can affect S'pore

How the US shutdown can affect S'pore

The United States government began shutting down its non-essential services earlier this month after its politicians failed to agree on a new budget for the financial year starting on Oct 1.

The impasse is largely a result of party politics, with the Republican-controlled House of Representatives pushing for cuts to President Barack Obama's health-care Act, and the Senate, controlled by Mr Obama's Democrats, not budging.

The White House said last Thursday night that a talk between President Obama and Republican congressional leaders to end the budget crisis had gone well, although no agreement was reached.

Already, 800,000 federal workers have been forced to go on unpaid leave since Oct 1, with no guarantees of being paid later.

With the shutdown unresolved after 12 days, fears escalated that the stalemate could drag on and complicate a separate but looming battle, over the raising of the country's debt ceiling. The US government is expected to hit this legal borrowing limit on Thursday, and could run out of money to pay its debts if legislation is not passed to raise it.

Beyond the political implications, though, here are some ways the shutdown may affect you, some more detrimental than others.

1. US Embassy stops providing non-essential services

The US Embassy here might have replied to one of the last press questions in a while, when its spokesman said a few days ago that all non-essential services will be suspended. Apparently, dealing with the media is one such service. But Americans living here, and Singaporeans headed to the US for work and school have less to worry about, since the embassy will continue to provide consular and visa application services. The spokesman did not say what the other non-essential services are.

2. Lights-out at landmarks

Famed national parks and monuments, from the Grand Canyon in Arizona to Yosemite Park in California and the Statue of Liberty in New York have been closed, with travellers camping in the parks asked to leave earlier this month. Even roads leading to the parks have been blocked off where possible, so sneaking pictures will be hard.

In Washington, all of the Smithsonian Institution's 19 museums and galleries have also been shuttered, including the National Gallery of Art, as well as the National Zoo.

Besides tourists, the national park closures have also affected businesses that depend on tourist dollars. As a result, several states have appealed to the US Department of the Interior, offering to pay for the staff costs with state funds so that the parks can reopen.

The state of Utah has already struck a US$1.67 million (S$2.08 million) deal and will reopen its parks by today.

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