50% wage offset for food and beverage firms to cope with coronavirus outbreak

Restaurants - along with hotels, serviced apartments, tourist attractions, and shops - do not have to pay property tax in 2020. ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

SINGAPORE - Food and beverage firms will get a 50 per cent wage offset for local employees, said Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat on Thursday (March 26).

This is an increase from the initial 8 per cent first announced in February's Budget. The monthly qualifying wage ceiling will be raised from $3,600 to $4,600 - which is the median wage in Singapore.

This measure is part of the enhanced Jobs Support Scheme, which will be extended for another two quarters, till the end of this year. Employers will receive three tranches of payouts - in May, July and October.

In addition, restaurants - along with hotels, serviced apartments, tourist attractions, and shops - do not have to pay property tax this year, a major enhancement from the initial 15 to 30 per cent announced in the February's Budget.

Mr Heng strongly urged landlords to "fully pass on" the property tax rebate to tenants by reducing rentals, in order to ease cash flow and cost pressures.

He highlighted that the food services sector has been "significantly affected" by the Covid-19 outbreak, and noted that more Singaporeans are avoiding crowds and choosing to eat at home.

He said: "The situation now calls for bolder and more aggressive moves to save jobs and keep workers in employment."

Under the Jobs Support Scheme, a total of $15.1 billion - more than twice the level of support provided during the global financial crisis - will be allocated to support more than 1.9 million local employees.

Mr Heng added: "With this support from the Government, I urge employers to do your part to hold on to your workers."

Mr Heng also addressed concerns over the impact on food supply arising from supply chain disruptions, and reassured an adequate supply of safe food.

"As we did with water, we are strengthening our food resilience for the long term. Under our "30 by 30" vision, we aim to produce 30 per cent of our nutritional needs by 2030, up from less than 10 per cent today," said Mr Heng.

This Resilience Budget adds more than $48 billion to the $6.4 billion already set aside in the Budget announced in February.

The F&B industry has been reeling from the coronavirus pandemic with fewer people dining out, helping staff affected by the Malaysia lockdown, and having to cope with mandatory measures to enforce social distancing in eateries.

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