Coronavirus: Chambers of commerce step up fight against fallout from outbreak

Chambers of commerce can take the lead and encourage their member companies to work together to pool resources or share best practices. ST PHOTO: BENJAMIN SEETOR

SINGAPORE - Business networks here have stepped up the fight against the coronavirus outbreak by ensuring that members stay up to date with the latest news, limiting the number of attendees at events, and conducting surveys to find out how companies are coping.

The European Chamber of Commerce in Singapore has also distributed a statement of support for Singapore at the European Union Commission written by its president, Mr Federico Donato.

Executive director Nele Cornelis said the letter "highlights what the Singapore Government has done over the course of this outbreak, giving assurances to our European partners that this international health crisis is well handled in Singapore".

She delivered the statement to representatives of various directors-general in Brussels last month.

The Singaporean-German Chamber of Industry and Commerce's latest survey of 92 companies, whose results were released on Monday (March 9), found that about one-third of respondents expect to suffer a loss of revenue of more than 10 per cent between January and June this year because of the fall-out from the coronavirus outbreak.

Mr Jens Ruebbert, the chamber's president, said that "these are significant cuts in revenue", adding: "Much uncertainty prevails. There are still many companies (32 per cent of respondents) that need to wait and see how the Covid-19 outbreak and related prevention-and-control measures impact their revenues."

British Chamber of Commerce executive director David Kelly said the association has been encouraging member firms to host virtual meetings, as "connecting businesses, building networks and generating impactful events in the traditional way (have) been challenged by the... virus".

Last month, the American Chamber of Commerce in Singapore published a survey on the business sentiment arising from the coronavirus outbreak.

A spokesman said: "The purpose of the survey was to better understand the challenges companies are facing as a direct result of the outbreak, how they are adapting to ensure business continuity and the well-being of their employees, and their outlook for Singapore and the region."

He added that Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing was at the survey's launch, where he spoke to attendees about Covid-19 and encouraged larger firms to help smaller companies tide over the crisis.

South African Chamber of Commerce Singapore vice-president Nigel Ritson said the association has cut down on the number of attendees at its events in February and March.

"Our attempt has been to create a balance between the need to continue business as usual (and) taking into account the severity of the situation," he said, adding that attendees at every event have to undergo a temperature screening.

Singapore International Chamber of Commerce chief executive Victor Mills said that his organisation has emphasised to its members that "life and business must and will continue as the community manages the risks associated with Covid-19".

Advising "the maintenance of clean environments and not falling victim to panic in all its forms", he further urged member firms to also take personal responsibility in taking care not to spread the virus.

Associate Professor Lawrence Loh at the National University of Singapore Business School said that chambers of commerce are a useful platform for companies to come together and work on how they can tide over the outbreak crisis together.

The chambers can take the lead and encourage their member companies to work together to pool resources or share best practices, said Prof Loh, who is also director at the Centre for Governance, Institutions and Organisations.

He also urged them to go beyond their member community to support other companies, particularly smaller ones that have leaner resources and are struggling because of the impact of the outbreak.

"This time of crisis presents a wonderful opportunity for chambers of commerce to demonstrate their social responsibility to help companies in need," Prof Loh added.

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