Wednesday, 27 September 2023

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Chan Chun Sing: Singapore economy may be affected by outbreak, but support measures underway

According to the Minister for Trade and Industry, Chan Chun Sing on Monday (27 Jan), the ministry is looking to deploy measures that will support enterprises and businesses adversely affected by the Wuhan virus.

Singapore’s consumer confidence, economy and business this year will likely take a toll due to the virus outbreak and this may linger for a while, Mr Chan remarked at a press conference organised by the multi-ministry task force on the coronavirus.

The sectors that are especially vulnerable are tourism-related sectors, he added.

These enterprises and businesses will get support from MTI in terms of retaining workers, reducing business costs and alleviating any cash flow problems of retailers and air transport providers, travel agents, hospitality industries and food and beverage sector.

In developing support strategies for the workers and the economy, MTI is will also collaborate with the Trade Associations and Chambers (TACs), he further added. Similar measures were implemented during the outbreak of the severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars) in 2003.

Previously implemented measures which can be introduced again for tourism-related industries include using a temporary bridging loan to ease working capital, property tax rebates and reducing the foreign worker levy for unskilled workers, according to Mr Chan. These measures can help reduce worker retrenchments by mitigating the risk of businesses going insolvent.

Economic agencies, especially the Singapore Tourism Board has been in contact with TACs since the viral outbreak to provide the necessary assistance as well as managing the impact.

“Our priority now is to work closely with the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) and NTUC to mitigate the fallout and support our workers affected to preserve their livelihoods.” Mr Chan affirmed.

Josephine Teo, the Manpower Minister who is also a member of the task force, noted at the press conference that additional precautions should be taken as daily life continues: “Businesses must continue to operate, and our workers must be able to go to work.”

The ministry has been working with the unions and employers to ensure that workplaces are kept safe, Ms Teo assured.

Employers should be aware of the latest advisories through official channels such as the Gov.s WhatsApp service and the Health and Manpower Ministry websites, she further added.

Should there be any concerns if employers are unsure, they should contact the Manpower Ministry for advice on the appropriate steps to take. Employers should also implement measures recommended by the ministry.

On Monday (27 Jan), a few businessmen spoke to The Straits Times that they have put in place measures to combat the outbreak.

A food importing businessman, Ho Kwok Choi, advised his employees and friends who came back from China to remain at home for two weeks as a precaution against the disease. Mr Ho goes to China regularly but is avoiding it as of now. He noted that “the situation looks to be getting more dangerous, the numbers of infected and deaths are increasing day by day.”

L.J. Foo, a construction sector businessman in his 60s, cancelled his travel plan a day before his trip to Xiamen, in Fujian province.

“Even though there are no cases there, I have to take the initiative to be responsible,” Mr Foo remarked.

A Wuhan employee who returned from home for Chinese New Year was advised by Mr Foo not to come back to Singapore. “I told him to stay there till the situation has stabilised, as we have to take the precaution… I think the bigger impact is that all those workers who have been to China won’t be able to return to Singapore, and it will affect business to a certain degree,” Mr Foo added.

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