Coronavirus: British businesses raise concerns about getting bank loans, though confidence in Singapore largely remains

Companies told BritCham that not all of them are eligible for government-assisted loans.
Companies told BritCham that not all of them are eligible for government-assisted loans.ST PHOTO: BENJAMIN SEETOR

SINGAPORE - Some British firms fear they will hit financial problems as they attempt to ride out the pandemic although most remain confident in Singapore as a business hub in the long-term.

The concerns were raised in a survey by the British Chamber of Commerce (BritCham) conducted earlier this month (April), before the circuit breaker measures were extended on Tuesday (April 21).

Companies told BritCham that not all of them are eligible for government-assisted loans because they have less than 30 per cent local shareholdings.

"These companies continue to recruit, train and employ Singaporeans and graduates and contribute to the economy, skills training and their communities," BritCham said.

"Combined with the constraints on work pass holders re-entering the country, these issues can lead to significant challenges for such businesses."

The poll noted that fewer companies now feel that the Singapore Government is being effective in addressing the potential economic impact of Covid-19.

A similar survey in early March found that 87 per cent of those polled felt the government's response was effective but this fell to 75 per cent in April.

"The drop in confidence in these results is likely to relate to the availability of financial support for foreign companies," BritCham said.

More companies have also complained about the hit to business, with 94 per cent saying they had been impacted, up from 77 per cent in early March.

 
 
 
 

The Singapore figures were higher than Asia-Pacific's numbers, BritCham said.

The survey found that the proportion of respondents saying that Covid-19 had affected business in the region fell to 79 per cent in April, from 88 per cent a month earlier.

Nonetheless, respondents in April indicated the "same strong support and appreciation for Singapore's approach to the virus with 97 per cent reaffirming their confidence in Singapore for the long-term as a business hub - the same proportion as in early March".

And 97 per cent also said they were satisfied with the Government's communication policy, though some have also asked for "clear, practical communications on how to apply for the various programmes and schemes announced".

The BritCham update also noted that respondents showed concern for migrant workers amid an increase in infection.

Respondents also wanted to know when work pass holders and dependents who hold foreign citizenship will be allowed to come back to Singapore to be "reunited with their families and able to work or continue their studies".