HELP’S AT HAND: TO COUNTER THE CRISIS

Singapore Budget 2020: Rent, tax reliefs among aid for sectors hit by outbreak

Firms in tourism, aviation, retail, food and transport services also get help to reskill staff

Staff at the National Centre for Infectious Diseases last week. Travel restrictions and the spread of the virus in Singapore and the region have hit the tourism and transport sectors hard, with businesses reporting a drop in sales of up to 50 per cen
Staff at the National Centre for Infectious Diseases last week. Travel restrictions and the spread of the virus in Singapore and the region have hit the tourism and transport sectors hard, with businesses reporting a drop in sales of up to 50 per cent. ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH
Few shoppers were seen at The Forum at Resorts World Sentosa last week. A bridging loan programme with a limit of $1 million per company will be introduced for a year to help businesses in the tourism sector with cash flow. ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

Five sectors directly affected by the coronavirus outbreak will receive additional support as part of a $4 billion package to help workers and businesses tide over a looming slowdown.

Rent and tax reliefs are among the measures targeted at certain affected sectors such as retail and food services. The two sectors, along with tourism, aviation and point-to-point transport services, will also get help to retain and reskill workers.

The Stabilisation and Support Package in the Budget includes schemes to help businesses retain local workers by offsetting part of their wages, as well as co-funding increases for those who earn a gross monthly wage of up to $5,000 a month.

Measures will also be rolled out to help firms with cash flow, cited by many as a top concern as the outbreak drags on for a second month.

These include corporate income tax rebates, higher maximum working capital loans and flexible rental payments for tenants and lessees of government-managed properties.

Travel restrictions and the spread of the virus in Singapore and the region have hit the tourism and transport sectors hard, with businesses reporting a drop in sales of up to 50 per cent.

Retailers and restaurants are also suffering as more locals avoid crowded places.

More than 330,000 local workers in the five sectors are expected to be retained and retrained through job support and redeployment schemes, said Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat yesterday.

Tax rebates will form a large part of the targeted support for the tourism and aviation sectors.

A property tax rebate of 30 per cent will be granted for this year for the accommodation and function room components of licensed hotels and serviced apartments, as well as prescribed Mice (meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions) venues.

International cruise and regional ferry terminals will receive a 15 per cent property tax rebate, while the two integrated resorts will get a 10 per cent rebate.

A bridging loan programme with a limit of $1 million per company will be introduced for a year to help businesses in the tourism sector with cash flow. Rental rebates for shops and cargo agents at Changi Airport are among the measures to be rolled out for the aviation industry, while a $77 million support package to aid the point-to-point transport services sector was announced last week.

A 15 per cent property tax rebate will be granted for qualifying commercial properties in the retail and food services sectors.

"I strongly urge landlords to pass this on to their tenants by reducing rentals," said Mr Heng.

Stallholders in hawker centres and markets managed by the National Environment Agency will also have their rent waived for a month, while other government agencies will offer a half-month rental waiver to commercial tenants.

The Restaurant Association of Singapore welcomed the support in the areas of wages and working capital loan financing, but said it is "terribly disappointed" in the rental waivers and "insignificant property tax rebates to developers".

"Our members are concerned about whether these savings given to developers will be passed down to tenants to help them ride out this difficult period," a spokesman said.

The Singapore Retailers Association echoed the call for commercial landlords to provide rent relief, and at least one has heeded it.

CapitaLand said yesterday that the full savings from its property tax rebate will be passed on to retailers operating across its malls.

Additional rental relief will be rolled out to tenants based on their individual circumstances while stores already have the flexibility to operate shorter hours, it said.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 19, 2020, with the headline Rent, tax reliefs among aid for sectors hit by outbreak. Subscribe