Fortitude Budget

F&B, retail firms may get up to $10k to go digital

Eligible businesses can receive a payout of up to $5,000 if they adopt PayNow Corporate and e-invoicing. ST PHOTO: GIN TAY

Companies in the food and beverage and retail sectors, which will be most affected by safe distancing requirements as Singapore reopens its economy, could get up to $10,000 each under a new scheme to accelerate digital transformation.

They will be the first to benefit from a new Digital Resilience Bonus, Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat told Parliament yesterday.

It gives eligible businesses a payout of up to $5,000 if they adopt PayNow Corporate and e-invoicing, as well as business process or e-commerce solutions. An additional $5,000 is available for F&B and retail businesses which incorporate advanced solutions.

The new scheme is part of over $500 million allocated to support businesses in their digital transformation in the fourth round of budget measures announced yesterday.

"Those who are willing to transform will not be left behind," said Mr Heng, highlighting that digital solutions will become more deeply embedded in everyday lives.

He noted that the Emerging Stronger Task Force is studying two key shifts which have been accelerated by the pandemic - the rise of digital transformation and the decline in support for globalisation, which has affected global supply chains. The task force was set up to study how sectors in Singapore's economy can adjust to future changes in a post-Covid-19 world.

Stallholders in hawker centres, wet markets, coffee shops and industrial canteens will also get bonus payouts of $300 a month, over five months, for adopting e-payments.

The bonus is contingent on sustained use of the e-payment solution, with a minimum number of transactions per month. The Government will also bear the transaction fees until Dec 31, 2023.

This will help businesses which have not done so to start using digital tools, said Mr Heng, noting that the take-up for e-payments has risen sharply, with 50,000 more enterprises adopting PayNow Corporate from last month.

Around $250 million will also be set aside to help businesses digitalise in partnership with platform solution providers and industry champions, he said.

Schools and higher institutes of learning must also make full use of digital technologies for learning, Mr Heng said.

The Education Ministry and the National Research Foundation will share more details on how new digital platforms for online learning and teaching can be developed, integrating the latest advancements in artificial intelligence and learning sciences.

A new set of National Innovation Challenges will also be introduced to develop industry-led solutions for challenges which all businesses face, especially measures to reopen Singapore safely, he added.

Mr George Kokkinis, general manager of Greek restaurant Bakalaki, said the new Digital Resilience Bonus would help the restaurant implement more digital solutions on top of the online delivery options it recently introduced.

The payouts would contribute to its short-term cash flow and help with cost savings in the long term, he added.

Restaurant Laut Collective's co-founder Frank Shen said upgrading back-end systems is often not a priority for F&B operators, given the substantial investment involved and the focus on more pressing service and operation needs. "If the Government is willing to help support (businesses like ours to upgrade our systems), we would definitely look to and hope to grow the business in any way we can," he said.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 27, 2020, with the headline F&B, retail firms may get up to $10k to go digital. Subscribe