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Solidarity Budget Substantial for Companies to Tide Over Challenging Month

Monday, 6 April 2020 [Singapore] The elevated measures to rein in the spread of the COVID-19 will cause significant disruption to our businesses and workers, especially companies that are unable to continue operations and implement work-from-home arrangements for their employees. While necessary, this means more economic pain for our businesses and anxiety for workers who may be concerned about their jobs.

The Singapore Business Federation (SBF) applauds the S$5.1 billion Solidarity Budget unveiled this afternoon by Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance Mr Heng Swee Keat which provides strong reassurance on the Government’s unwavering commitment to help businesses and individuals ride through this economic storm.

The additional support provides immediate, direct and significant relief, homing in on the pain points of businesses – cash, cost and credit – during this challenging time.

Mitigate Cost Pressures
The enhanced and generous Jobs Support Scheme (JSS), which increases the wage offset to 75% for the first $4,600 of gross monthly wages per local employee from all sectors for April, will greatly alleviate the cashflow challenges companies will face during the upcoming “circuit breaker” period. The earlier payout will also ensure that employees get paid on time and are retained.

We are heartened that concerns of companies with foreign workers have also been addressed. The waiver of the foreign worker levy for April and rebate of $750 for each Work Permit Holder or S Pass holder will help mitigate the cost pressures our companies, particularly those in sectors with a higher number of foreign workers.

SBF also hopes that landlords will follow the example of the Government in supporting their tenants and go beyond passing on the full property tax rebate to help their tenants with their cashflow challenges.

Access to Credit
The Government’s increase in the risk share from 80% to 90% for loans initiated from 8 April for the various financing schemes including the Temporary Bridging Loan Programme, the SME Working Capital Loan, and the Enterprise Financing Scheme–Trade Loan will allow companies increased access to financing. This is on top of the package of further measures introduced by Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) and various financial institutions, which will benefit more than S$40 billion of SMEs’ existing loans. The new MAS Singapore Dollar facility which gives banks and finance companies access to low-cost funding will provide our companies more affordable loans during this challenging time.

Help for Self-Employed Persons
We are glad that the Government has considered a wider group of self-employed persons (SEPs) and extended assistance automatically to more individuals, including those with a small income and those living in private properties. This ensures SEPs and gig workers are less vulnerable to the quickly evolving economic situation that may reduce their earnings.

Mr S.S. Teo, Chairman of SBF, said, “Now is the time for everyone – businesses, workers and trade associations and chambers (TACs) – to do everything we can to contain the spread of the coronavirus. Every effort counts. We need to work together with the Government to ride out this storm and overcome this crisis. The message is clear: Our companies need to preserve jobs to protect our workers and their livelihoods.

We applaud and support the Solidarity Budget and urge businesses who will benefit from the financial assistance to preserve as many jobs as possible, without taking their eyes off on building their long-term capabilities and capacity to prepare for the eventual rebound. Let’s all work together to tide through this period of uncertainty and help one another to get back into action once the situation stabilises.”

Mr Ho Meng Kit, CEO of SBF, said, “The COVID-19 situation is changing very rapidly. The Solidarity Budget is immediate, direct and substantial help which our businesses need so as to survive the circuit-breaker period and save jobs.

SBF, together with the other TACs, will continue to work closely together with the Government to help our companies navigate the various schemes, ensuring that the benefits flow down to them fast.

SBF will also continue to support businesses through various initiatives including the SBF ManpowerConnect scheme to help with the manpower needs of our companies as well as the SBF-YBLN HOPE Fund which provides an additional source of accessible and affordable funding for our SMEs. We’ve launched the COVIDBiz Helpline to help companies navigate the COVID-19 related government advisories for businesses and are working on a programme to help companies build business resilience so they can be equipped for the uncertainty ahead and confidently prepare for the recovery.”

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