Deputy Prime Minister, Mr Heng Swee Keat, today addressed the nation, almost 3 months since the last announcement of the Fortitude Budget. Since then, the global economy remains very weak and is expected to contract by 5%. Locally, Singapore has seen a 13.2% of year-on-year contraction in the second quarter of 2020. Worldwide, infections have also tripled since the last announcement made in May. Notwithstanding, Singapore has made good progress in controlling the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak in Singapore.
In his announcement, DPM Heng underlined the government’s commitment to work hand-in-hand with its tripartite partners to help steer the country through this challenging period.
SMCCI President, Mr Farid Khan underlined his gratitude for this show of solidarity, mentioning that “During this challenging time, it is crucial for the government to work closely with business chambers like SMCCI, which can provide deep insight into the effectiveness of support measures during this crisis.” I am heartened to have had many opportunities to advocate on behalf of SMCCI’s businesses throughout this time, and to see how the feedback given has helped to shape policies.”
CONTINUED SUPPORT FOR WORKERS AND JOBS
In response to the protracted nature of the COVID-19 outbreak, DPM Heng mentioned that the government will focus on providing continued support for workers and jobs.
This comes in the form of an extension of the Jobs Support Scheme (JSS) for up to an additional 7 months; a move that is crucial in assisting businesses to remain sustainable, and protect employees’ jobs. In particular, SMCCI’s members, slightly more than half of which are in the Food Services, Retail and Tourism Industries will continue to receive a higher tier of support until March 2021.
In addition, the Jobs Growth Initiative will also be launched to encourage hiring of local workers with co-payment of up to 50% for more mature workers, during this period. This initiative complements the plethora of other manpower-related assistance such as the Professional Conversion Programmes, which businesses can tap on, to assist them in addressing their manpower needs.
Deputy President and Chairman of SME Centre@ SMCCI, Mr Abu Bakar Mohd Nor urged businesses to leverage on the available schemes in their hiring initiatives, mentioning that, “Protecting and creating jobs remain a key priority, even during these challenging times. The crisis has also resulted in a demand for new skills and new ways of working. As such, businesses should work closely with SME Centre@ SMCCI to leverage on all available support schemes that can assist them in both reskilling their workers and fulfilling their manpower needs.”
PROVIDING FURTHER SUPPORT TO SECTORS WHICH HAVE BEEN HARDEST HIT
As the COVID-19 outbreak continues to develop, and the economic landscape remains uncertain and challenging, one of the industries which have been hardest hit are businesses in the tourism industry. In DPM Heng’s announcement, this industry was among those identified to receive additional support, which comes in the form of the highest tier of support through the JSS. This measure was welcomed by businesses in the industry, as they continue to be severely affected by travel restrictions. Mr Abdul Majid, from GEM Vacations, mentioned that, “The announcement will provide much needed relief as the tourism industry has been hardest hit by this crisis. The additional support will allow my business to continue sustaining, and to protect the jobs of my employees.”
In addition, assistance to the industry has been further amplified as DPM Heng announced support of $320 million via tourism credits, which will be utilised for the Singapore Rediscovers Voucher initiative, aimed at stimulating local tourism.
TRANSFORMING THE ECONOMY FOR A POST COVID-19 WORLD
DPM Heng highlighted that the crisis has resulted in the reorganisation of supply chains and acceleration of digitalisation. He then concluded his speech by stressing on the need to position businesses and the Singapore economy, to seize opportunities in a post COVID-19 world.
SMCCI President Farid Khan echoed these sentiments and stressed that, “ It is crucial for business owners to take a longer term view in terms of the sustainability and growth trajectory of their current business model. This may include transforming their business model and finding new ways of working in the new norm.” He added that “SMCCI is committed to work closely with our members in terms of strategies to assist business in the short-term, but also developing macro-strategies that can transform entire business verticals and position our members for business success in the post COVID-19 world.”