Singapore’s Ministry of Manpower (MOM) will be offering a nightly allowance of S$50 per worker to local firms affected by travel restrictions imposed by Malaysia in the country’s bid to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

Manpower Minister Josephine Teo told in a press briefing on Tuesday night (17 March) that MOM “has been working with tripartite partners to support the affected companies” in finding “suitable accommodation” for their workers who may be subject to Malaysia’s movement control order.

“For every affected worker, we will provide the firms with the support of S$50 a night for 14 nights,” she said, adding that more details on how to apply for the allowance will be shared later.

Ms Teo explained that a large number of the affected workers include work pass holders, Singaporean citizens, as well as permanent residents who travel daily from Malaysia to Singapore.

They are employed by local companies that provide essential services like healthcare, security, cleaning, transportation, waste management, facilities management, and logistics, she said.

“Even for companies, which do not provide essential services, they employ Singaporeans, so we want to ensure that their businesses are not severely disrupted,” she noted.

As such, Ms Teo went on to state that this is why MOM is working with tripartite partners to help these affected companies.

If these companies require their workers to stay in Singapore, the Government will help them secure a suitable accommodation, the Minister affirmed.

As for the available housing options, Ms Teo said there are three in place. This first is deemed to be the “most comfortable” where “employers can encourage the affected workers to stay with relatives, friends or colleagues in Singapore”, according to the Minister.

In case the first option is not possible, then the second option is for employers to consider hotels and dorms. Ms Teo said that MOM has a list and will link up the employers with the accommodations. The final option is rental, and real estate agents can help with that.

Citing the move as a “temporary relief measure”, Ms Teo said that companies will be given time to evaluate their manpower needs and to put in place “sustainable arrangements” for the time being.

“I’m confident that by the end of the day, any one of the affected workers that need to stay in Singapore will be able to find suitable accommodation,” she remarked.

As of Tuesday evening, over 10,000 Malaysians have managed to secure accommodation in Singapore, said Ms Teo. She added that they managed to find a place to stay within just a few hours.

However, around 100,000 Malaysians working in the city-state have no living arrangements in Singapore as of Tuesday evening, said the Minister. This include some 1,000 nurses and other healthcare workers who commute daily from Malaysia to Singapore for work.

“In the few hours that we’ve been (working with them), we’ve been able to match more than 10,000 so far in the few short hours we had, so we’re confident that those affected will be able to find suitable accommodation by the end of the night,” she said.

She added, “It may take some time because employers and workers have preferences, and different budgets, so we need time to match them.”

Upon reading Ms Teo’s announcement, many netizens were quick to express their thoughts on this matter.

Commenting on the Facebook page of Mothership, some lamented how the Singapore government is being “generous to outsiders” like Malaysian workers, but not doing much to help local Singaporeans when they need assistance.

One user named Marc Kingston questioned why are they paid S$50 per night while local taxis only get S$20 off. “Why not start paying our local taxi, phv drivers, deliverers, hawkers, and those self employed who are facing hard times $50ea too for 14 days? Govt really treat FTs better than their own country People!” the user noted.

However, other online users slammed these people as they have misunderstood MOM’s announcement. They said that the S$50 given is for Singaporean firms and not for Malaysian workers. As such, this amount will actually help local companies survive during this difficult times.

A large amount of netizens also said that the S$50 distributed per night for each worker will essentially benefit the local businesses and help with the country’s economy. While thanking the government, they added that if companies failed to survive during this period due to the restricted movement imposed by the Malaysian government, then local business and local workers will end up suffering as well.

Some pointed out that it’s good that the Government is helping its neighbouring country during this testing period. Stating this is the right thing to do, they said that people should show more compassion and many small businesses in Singapore actually rely on Malaysian workers, making it more important to help them.

However, user Matt Cca warned that the fund given by MOM should go to providing accommodations for the affected workers and “not into the pockets of some bosses.”

“We’ve seen enough sad cases of bad SG bosses who take the money and take advantage of the foreign workers,” the user wrote.

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