Govt looking into simplified liquidation process for businesses hurt by Covid-19: Edwin Tong

Second Minister for Law Edwin Tong speaking during a public webinar hosted by the SMU Pro Bono Centre on Sept 2, 2020. PHOTO: SINGAPORE MANAGEMENT UNIVERSITY

SINGAPORE - Businesses that are hurt by the coronavirus pandemic and need to liquidate will soon be able to do so in an easier way.

The Government is looking at a simplified liquidation scheme to help these businesses wind up so that the people behind the businesses are not hurt in the long term, said Second Minister for Law Edwin Tong on Wednesday (Sept 2).

"If you allow the company to fail, and the usual consequences of bankruptcy and all that follow, then it's difficult for the individual to resurrect the business even when the economy picks up," he said.

"So we're looking at a form of simplifying the process, making sure that those who can restructure or can find new investors can do so easily."

Mr Tong made the comments during a public webinar hosted by Singapore Management University's Pro Bono Centre on the challenges for individuals, families and business during Covid-19.

They come two weeks after Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat said on Aug 17 that a small number of businesses that may not be able to reopen soon, such as those in the nightlife industry, will get help in transitioning to other activities or to ease their exit.

On Wednesday, Mr Tong also said that the Government is looking to provide companies - such as those in the travel or meetings, incentives, conferencing, exhibitions (MICE) industry - with a simplified way to restructure their businesses, which would otherwise not survive in the short term due to the pandemic.

In some cases where restructuring does not work to improve the sustainability of these businesses, the simplified liquidation process will help prevent individuals behind them from being financially damaged in the long run, he added.

He added that despite Government measures, there will be "unevenness" on the ground, which will be inevitable.

But the goal of the measures is to make sure that Singaporeans and businesses are best placed to take advantage of the upturn once the economy is back on track, said Mr Tong, who is also Minister for Culture, Community and Youth.

Mr Tong was one of four panellists at the webinar, alongside Law Society of Singapore president Gregory Vijayendran SC; SMU vice-provost for faculty matters Lee Pey Woan; and director of TRANS Family Service Centre (Bedok Reservoir) Jermaine Quek.

During the session, Mr Tong also said the Government will be extending the time frame for alternative arrangements for holding annual general meetings under the Covid-19 (Temporary Measures) Act, which was introduced in April. The deadline is now end-September.

This will give companies, societies and charities certainty in carrying on their meetings, which may take months to plan and organise, he added.

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