Government sets aside $320 million to cover further extension of foreign worker levy rebates

With the extension of support schemes, the firms will get a full waiver for the levies due in July, August and September. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Firms in the construction, marine shipyard and process sectors badly hit by the coronavirus crisis will get help to defray some of their labour costs.

The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) on Saturday (Aug 1) said that it would be extending the waiver of foreign worker levies and giving out more rebates.

For the latest extension of the support package, $320 million will be set aside to cover the foreign worker levy rebates, the MOM said in a statement.

This increased support is in addition to the $1.36 billion Construction Support Package earlier announced on June 27.

This comes as the majority of the 15,000 firms in the sectors continue to face financial difficulties, as they are unable to resume work due to the Covid-19 measures, said the MOM.

The ministry added that this situation is likely to persist until the foreign worker dormitories are fully cleared this month and workers are progressively allowed to resume work.

Currently, as part of the Fortitude Budget, all firms in the sectors received a full waiver of foreign worker levies due in June, and a 50 per cent waiver for levies due in July.

But now, with the extension of support schemes, the firms will get a full waiver for the levies due in July, August and September.

This support will be tapered down as the firms in the sector restart and the tempo of activities picks up, with the levies waiver stepped down to 75 per cent for October, 50 per cent for November and 25 per cent for December.

Under the Fortitude Budget, the firms had also been given rebates on levies for each work permit or S Pass holder at $750 in June and $375 in July.

In addition to this, the $375 rebate will be extended for another two months to August and September.

This will replace the existing $90 rebate for each work permit holder for August and September to help the firms adjust to safe management measures, that was announced by the Government on June 27.

But the firms will continue to receive a $90 rebate for October, until December 2021.

Announcing these additional measures on Saturday in a Facebook post, Manpower Minister Josephine Teo acknowledged that it had been a challenging time for firms in the construction, marine shipyard and process sectors, with many of their foreign workers unable to work as the Government tackled the outbreak in foreign worker dormitories and ramped up testing among the workers.

"Cash flow is a major concern, especially since payment is tied to completion milestones and firms still have high overheads. The situation on the ground has been changing rapidly and firms have had to adjust to the many different urgent advisories issued by MOM and the rest of government," she said adding that her ministry has taken on board feedback from the industry associations and employers.

The MOM had received feedback from the Singapore Contractors Association Limited, Association of Singapore Marine Industries, and the Association of Process Industry.

The multi-ministry task force combating the Covid-19 outbreak has said that all migrant worker dormitories will be cleared of the virus in August.

Mrs Teo noted that the Government had been working hard to complete the clearance of the dormitories and also implement measures so that work can resume safely on work sites.

She added that it would take some time for the situation to fully stabilise.

"Much as we want to speed things up, we have to be sure we do a thorough job, so that the sector is not affected by another outbreak," she said.

"The Government remains committed to helping the sector as best as we can, within the limits of our resources," Mrs Teo added.

"As we work towards establishing safe living and working conditions for some degree of normalcy to return, there have been challenges and setbacks along the way. It has been an enormous task for our officers at the various agencies, but these have been unprecedented times, and we are all adapting and doing our best as the situation evolves. We welcome any feedback and will continue to work closely with sector leaders for a stronger tomorrow."

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