Coronavirus: Government looking at how best to help hospitality, tourism, retail and F&B sectors

Marina Bay Sands staff attending to hotel guests on Jan 28, 2020. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - The Singapore Government is studying how best to support the hospitality, tourism, retail and food and beverage sectors that have been hit by the Wuhan virus outbreak even as it takes precautions to contain the outbreak, Singapore's National Development Minister Lawrence Wong said.

"We are looking at a strong Budget in 2020 and it is coming very soon in February," Mr Wong said at the Real Estate Developers' Association of Singapore's (Redas) annual Spring festival lunch on Friday (Jan 31).

"In the medium term, there will be impact. We are already seeing it and we will see more impact to come. We know specific sectors will bear the brunt of it... Hospitality, tourism, retail, and food and beverage will be impacted more so, and there will be overall impact on the economy. It will impact China's economy, the global economy and will impact Singapore as well," he cautioned.

"It is a coronavirus but it is clearly different from Sars and more transmissable and can spread faster. For now, it looks less lethal than Sars but over time it can change. The entire global community is scrambling to understand this and to update and develop possible vaccines to treat this. We can do genome sequencing and we have diagnostic kits to detect anyone infected. But we are dealing with something different," Mr Wong said.

"It is more transmissable but less lethal than Sars, and shown in the 13 cases we have so far. All are stable, none are in critical condition and most are improving," he said.

"While this virus is different from Sars, we can take heart that we are better prepared for this than during Sars period. Even the private sector is better prepared today," he added.

Speaking at the event, Redas president Chia Ngiang Hong said Singapore's private residential property market remained resilient in 2019, with 52 new projects, excluding executive condominiums, and about 17,000 units launched for sale. More than 9,900 new homes were sold, 12.7 per cent higher than in 2018 despite the cooling measures.

More than 30 projects with 9,000 new units may be launched for sale for 2020, and about half of the new launches will be in the core central region, he said.

Analysts expect demand for private homes from HDB upgraders to remain steady this year on the back of 26,100 HDB flats reaching minimum occupation period. That is 50 per cent higher compared with the past five years' average.

"Some consultants are also of the view that there is a great deal of pent-up household liquidity... In the beginning of the year, most analysts expect new home sales for 2020 to remain resilient and roughly match 2019 levels. Prices of new homes are not expected to change much.

"Although new home sales seem resilient, sales performance across the different projects and segments are uneven. Developers' concerns over the oncoming supply and buildup of unsold inventory remain," he added.

Mr Wong also said he hoped to see more Business Improvement District plans taking shape over the next year and welcomed feedback from developers in efforts to shape the future downtown with them.

"We have many projects in the pipeline... the Greater Southern Waterfront starting with the Pasir Panjang Power District... We have introduced the CBD incentive scheme and Strategic Development Incentive scheme for commercial building owners to redevelop their properties," he added.


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