Forum: Businesses forced to shut need help too

Closed bars seen at Boat Quay on March 28, 2020.
Closed bars seen at Boat Quay on March 28, 2020.ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG

Last week, the Government stepped up Covid-19 containment measures by announcing that businesses like tuition and enrichment centres would be suspended.

Cinemas, bars and entertainment outlets will be shut till the end of next month (Sweeping new measures to check virus spread, March 25).

The Ministry of Health also announced a further tightening of social distancing guidelines that made it difficult for fitness, wellness and dance venues to continue regular operations.

When the supplementary budget was unveiled in Parliament last Thursday, why were these businesses not identified alongside the aviation, tourism and hotel sectors as being in need of the most relief?

These companies also have to deal with rental costs and clients asking for refunds due to closure, while at the same time having to consider how to pay staff wages with no revenue for weeks.

Rental relief has also been a massive sore point for the majority of commercial tenants. While the Housing Board and National Environment Agency are giving some form of rental relief, the majority of tenants have landlords that are in the private sector.

Tax reliefs were given to these major commercial landlords but with no conditions or guarantee that these rebates would actually filter down to tenants.

Essentially, the Government is giving cash handouts to large commercial landlords, but allowing them to disburse the money at their own discretion.

I hope that the Government will also look closely into offering more relief to other business owners and employees affected by closures.

Wee Tze Yi

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 31, 2020, with the headline 'Businesses forced to shut need help too'. Print Edition | Subscribe