SINGAPORE - Home-based businesses are an important source of income for many families, especially when the coronavirus pandemic has cut into household income, said President Halimah Yacob in a Facebook post on Friday (May 1).
Madam Halimah was weighing in on the controversy that erupted after the Government announced that such businesses would no longer be allowed to operate under enhanced circuit breaker measures rolled out on April 21.
The move sparked concern in the Malay community as such enterprises are an important source of income for many during Ramadan.
Madam Halimah's post noted that those who run such businesses are predominantly women who may find it difficult to take jobs outside the home as they have children or elderly parents to care for.
High overheads and a lack of capital mean that it is too costly for them to set up shop outside the house as well, she said.
And although they bake throughout the year, it is during Ramadan that they can earn the most to pay for Hari Raya expenses and set aside money for their own needs.
"During these very difficult times, the income that the home-based businesses earn is even more critical as some have spouses who have lost their jobs or whose income has been slashed due to Covid-19," Madam Halimah said, adding that she purchases cookies from such businesses for Hari Raya every year.
"I do so primarily to support our home-based businesses, but also because they provide the kind of cookies that I would make myself at home, if I had the time.
"It's not the standard commercial cookies that are on sale everywhere, but cookies up to your own taste."
Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs Masagos Zulkifli said on Wednesday that owners of home-based food businesses who register with the Singapore Malay Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SMCCI) will automatically qualify for the Temporary Relief Fund.
Restrictions on such businesses may also be eased if the Covid-19 situation improves, he said.
Madam Halimah noted that she is no stranger to the issue, given she used to work with the women's wing of the SMCCI to promote the interests of home-based businesses.
"I truly love the diversity in the choice of food and the convenience that home-based businesses provide to working women like us.
"I feel that it has become an intrinsic part of our food culture."
Madam Halimah noted that some business owners eventually gain the confidence and ability to start full-fledged catering and restaurant enterprises of their own.
"I sure hope that many more will be able to make that leap but, in the meantime, they need all the support that they can get to continue with their home-based business."