Parliament: Building economic resilience by ensuring viable businesses are not 'permanently damaged' will save jobs, help in recovery, says DPM Heng

Singapore is building economic resilience by ensuring that viable businesses are not permanently damaged. ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

SINGAPORE -Building resilience among Singapore firms will position them for recovery and save jobs - which is a key thrust that underpins the economic support being provided amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat said on Tuesday (April 7) that Singapore is building economic resilience by ensuring that viable businesses are not permanently damaged but are able to preserve their capabilities for recovery.

In his round-up speech on the Supplementary Budget, Mr Heng noted that with the economy hit on so many fronts, it is "not possible to just restore the status quo".

"Moreover, as the most open economy in the world, injecting funds cannot counter the extensive global supply and demand shocks. Our best response now is to build resilience - in our economy and society," he said, adding that this is the approach to the economic and social support in last month's Resilience Budget and Monday's Solidarity Budget.

On the economic front, support for businesses cover the areas of costs, cash flow and credit. Enhancements to financing measures include the Government taking on a higher risk share on several loan schemes, including the temporary bridging loan programme and the SME Working Capital Loan programme.

There is also help for affected workers to bounce back, and make the best use of the downtime. The Jobs Support Scheme, for example, will now give businesses in all sectors a wage subsidy of 75 per cent for the first $4,600 of local employees' gross monthly pay.

"We can save more jobs, if we have more resilient firms," said Mr Heng.

Addressing questions from National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) secretary-general Ng Chee Meng and Mr Liang Eng Hwa (Holland-Bukit Timah GRC) on flowing assistance to firms more quickly, Mr Heng said that government agencies like the Central Provident Fund Board and the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore are working to expedite payouts.

Firms on Giro and PayNow will start receiving the first tranche of Jobs Support Scheme payouts next week, while those on cheque payments will receive payouts a week later.

The Public Service is also working towards making faster payments to businesses supplying goods and services to the Government. It has brought forward the scheduled due date of more than 1,000 payment vouchers by an average of 11 days, he added.

This amounts to more than $600 million, benefiting close to 300 businesses, mostly small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), Mr Heng said.

"I encourage businesses that are in better financial positions, to consider making similar gestures for their suppliers, many of which are SMEs. By keeping your supply chain intact, your company will also benefit," he added.

Several MPs, including Mr Saktiandi Supaat (Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC) and Ms Foo Mee Har (West Coast GRC), had highlighted the cash-flow concerns which are facing SMEs on Monday's and Tuesday's debate over the supplementary Budgets.

Noting that the Monetary Authority of Singapore, along with financial institutions, has introduced a package of measures to help SMEs with temporary cash flow difficulties, Mr Heng said he was glad to see industry players step up to help businesses.

He also urged businesses to use the support which has been rolled out "wisely and responsibly", even as the Government provides help in a broad-based manner.

Last month's Resilience Budget also provides support to reinforcing Singapore's supply chains, Mr Heng said, acknowledging the points which MPs including Mr Ang Wei Neng (Jurong GRC) and Mr Murali Pillai (Bukit Batok SMC) had made about the importance of further strengthening the Republic's supply chain resilience and food security.

He added that Singapore has been working on its strategy to ensure a stable supply of safe food and essential goods for years, and will continue to do so, with more details to be provided by Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli this week.

Mr Heng also highlighted the efforts of Mr Seah Kian Peng (Marine Parade GRC), who is chief executive of NTUC Enterprise, as well as his staff in keeping supermarket shelves stocked.

"Through your hard work, and that of other distributors, we can instil confidence in the adequacy of our food supplies," he said.

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