Firms took $17.4b in loans through Enterprise S'pore amid virus crisis

Over 20,000 businesses tapped schemes from March to Dec, with wholesale trade sector among top beneficiaries

Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing (far left) speaking to staff of PS Energy via Zoom during a visit to the wholesale trade firm in Bulim Avenue yesterday. PHOTO: MINISTRY OF TRADE AND INDUSTRY
Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing (left) speaking to staff of PS Energy via Zoom during a visit to the wholesale trade firm in Bulim Avenue yesterday. PHOTO: MINISTRY OF TRADE AND INDUSTRY
Wholesale trade companies accounted for about one-fifth of approved loans disbursed from March to December last year under schemes overseen by Enterprise Singapore, which were introduced or enhanced to tackle challenges posed by the coronavirus pande
Wholesale trade companies accounted for about one-fifth of approved loans disbursed from March to December last year under schemes overseen by Enterprise Singapore, which were introduced or enhanced to tackle challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic.ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

More than 20,000 businesses took up some $17.4 billion in loans through schemes overseen by Enterprise Singapore (ESG) from March to December last year.

This amount was more than 13 times the credit extended under ESG-supported loans for the whole of 2019.

The schemes, including the Temporary Bridging Loan Programme, were introduced or enhanced to tackle challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic, such as cash flow constraints.

The wholesale trade sector, a key pillar of Singapore's economy that accounts for 12 per cent of gross domestic product, is one of the top beneficiaries of these loan schemes, said Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing yesterday.

Wholesale trade companies accounted for about one-fifth of approved loans, while the hard-hit construction sector received 16 per cent of the total loan amount disbursed under the schemes. Other industries which benefited include the manufacturing, retail and service sectors.

While the Covid-19 pandemic has negatively affected the wholesale trade sector in the short term, Singapore remains optimistic about the sector's long-term prospects, Mr Chan said.

"We are cautiously optimistic that in 2021, we'll see a rebound for most of the commodities traded within the overall sector," he said.

The wholesale trade sector contributes more than 320,000 jobs, accounting for 9 per cent of Singapore's workforce. It comprises more than 50,000 firms.

The sector includes firms that import and export food and beverages, and those in electronics and machinery, said Mr Chan. He was speaking to the media after a visit to wholesale trade firm PS Energy, which distributes fuels and lubricants.

Mr Chan highlighted three factors that will shape the wholesale trade sector in the coming years: the shift in supply chains and trade flows; the increasing use of digital technology in conventional arbitrage and to provide greater transparency; and the search for greater resilience, reliability and efficiency in operations.

Speaking of the last factor, Mr Chan said it presents opportunities for local companies "because in Singapore, we have built ourselves a reputation of being efficient, reliable, dependable".​

  • SHAPING WHOLESALE TRADE

    Mr Chan highlighted three factors that will shape the wholesale trade sector in the coming years:

    1 shift in supply chains and trade flows;

    2 increasing use of digital technology in conventional arbitrage and to provide greater transparency;

    3 search for greater resilience, reliability and efficiency in operations.

"So this is an added service that we can provide for the rest of the world," he said.

In addition to providing access to credit, the Government has also helped firms in the sector build up new capabilities, such as through the adoption of digital technologies.

This is a strategy to help firms capture new market opportunities, and will help to strengthen Singapore's position in the regional and global wholesale trade market, said Mr Chan.​

  • >320k Number of jobs contributed by the wholesale trade sector, accounting for 9 per cent of Singapore's workforce.

    12% The percentage of Singapore's gross domestic product for which the wholesale trade sector accounts. 

He cited PS Energy as one of the firms actively investing in digitalisation initiatives to optimise processes and raise productivity. The firm has used new technology to strengthen the traceability and transparency of its processes.

Said the minister: "We are quietly optimistic that the wholesale trade sector will continue to grow in Singapore. We will diversify into many other new products within wholesale trade.

"At the same time, it will create many more good jobs for Singaporeans in this particular sector."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 09, 2021, with the headline 'Firms took $17.4b in loans through Enterprise S'pore amid virus crisis'. Print Edition | Subscribe