According to reports, the Singapore government has set aside another additional 48 billion to support its businesses and households after official preliminary estimates indicate that the Southeast Asian economy is shrinking by more than expected in the first quarter of this year. This figure is on top of the the $6.4 billion of economic and healthcare measures announced a month earlier to help the country tide through the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
In total, the two support packages account for approximately 11% of Singapore’s gross domestic product (GDP). Businesses have also stepped up with Singapore Airlines (SIA) Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Goh Choon Phong announcing that he will take a 30 percent pay cut after Temasek’s offer of a generous $15 billion bailout package.
While I am heartened that the country has enough reserves, I do hope that the bailout package will also be utilised to assist smaller businesses who will really need a lifeline especially those who are tenanted businesses.
Smaller businesses will not have access to bank loans and other financial instruments the same way huge chains will, but they are the livelihoods of people and may even have employees that depend on them.
While the government has identified the aviation industry as one that will suffer huge losses as a result of this global health crisis, I also have concerns for the smaller businesses, especially within the Food and Beverage (F&B) industry. The F&B industry relies heavily on footfall. With lesser people going out, they will really take a battering. Despite having severely reduced takings and they will still have to pay overheads such as rent. Given that rents are not cheap in Singapore, will the need to pay rents eventually lead to having to let staff go? How will the staff look for new employment as the COVID-19 pandemic rages on?
This is a pandemic that affects all of us and in the words of an online petition:
With sales dipping, many tenanted businesses are finding it hard to cope with the increasing pressure on cost especially rental and labour.
We understand that Singapore Government has rolled out the Resilience Budget which includes Property Tax Waiver to Landlords and Rebate for local workers. However, we believe it does not directly benefit tenanted businesses under Commercial or Private Landlords which are only urged to give rental rebates of waiver to tenants.
When required, tenants like us pay our rental on time and are fully cooperative. Most Commercial or Private Landlords have not gotten back to us in the same way.
As we understand Singapore’s Government’s move to reduce the risk of local spread of COVID-19, we are fully cooperative. However, tenanted businesses, local and overseas brands, retail and F&B needs a chance to survive during this crucial period.
We sincerely plead for Singapore’s Government, Commercial and Private Landlords to help affected businesses during this crucial period of time.
We do not want our tenanted businesses to close down, locals to lose businesses and jobs. We are willing to not earn anything during this period of time, and will do all we can to ease cash flow. However, there is only so much that we can do if no one helps us.
“Please sign on this petition and help us!”
This petition on change.org was initiated by Petition SG to urge the Government, Commercial and Private Landlords to help affected businesses during this difficult times due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
At the time of writing, the petition has so far garnered 9,375 signatures.