Singapore businesses seek larger second stimulus package urgently as global economy worsens

DPM Heng Swee Keat (centre) and Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing (left) at a closed-door dialogue organised by the Singapore Business Federation with more than 40 business leaders, including trade associations and chambers, on March 20, 202
DPM Heng Swee Keat (centre) and Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing (left) at a closed-door dialogue organised by the Singapore Business Federation with more than 40 business leaders, including trade associations and chambers, on March 20, 2020.PHOTO: MCI

SINGAPORE - Businesses here are hoping for more support from the Government in the form of a larger second stimulus package as the global economy worsens amid the Covid-19 outbreak.

The Singapore Business Federation (SBF), in a statement on Sunday (March 22), cited a poll it conducted on March 13 in which 73 per cent of businesses believe that the second stimulus package should be as large or larger than the $4 billion Stabilisation and Support Package announced by Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat during Budget 2020.

Just over half of the 188 respondents hope the new package can be rolled out immediately or in a month's time, which signals an urgency for the second stimulus package to be disbursed soon, the SBF said.

The findings of the poll were shared with DPM Heng and Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing at a closed-door dialogue organised by SBF with more than 40 business leaders on Friday.

The SBF, which represents 27,200 companies, champions the interests of the Singapore business community in trade, investment and industrial relations. One of its key functions is to be a bridge between businesses and the Government to create a conducive business environment.

Mr Teo Siong Seng, chairman of SBF, said in the statement: "It is more important than ever for the business community to rally together to help one another. At the end of the day, we're all in this together and have a responsibility to collaborate with our suppliers, customers, employees, peers as well as the Government to protect jobs and keep businesses moving."

The call for a larger second stimulus package from businesses comes after DPM Heng said on March 11 that the Government is working on a second stimulus package on top of the $4 billion package that he announced during the Budget.

The aim of the additional package is to help workers keep their jobs, help small and medium-sized enterprises (SME) make the best of the crisis and support retrenched workers.

Of those polled by SBF, 69 per cent were SMEs.

 
 
 
 

The poll also found that businesses said they needed more support for defraying wage costs, more tax rebates, and help with manpower challenges, which includes hiring, upskilling and retaining workers.

About 13 per cent of businesses also want more support in managing cash flow while 11 per cent said they required help in covering rental costs.

Despite the majority calling for a second stimulus package soon, 86 per cent of respondents said their businesses were ready to ride out the current situation for at least six months, while the remaining respondents said they were expecting to hold out for at least three months.

Yet, the coronavirus outbreak is preventing 87 per cent of businesses from transforming and expanding overseas, the poll found, as these businesses said they expect the current situation to moderately impact their plans to do so.

Chief executive of SBF Ho Meng Kit advised the business community to follow advisories issued by the government agencies. "It's uncertain how long the Covid-19 outbreak may last. We urge the business community to work on contingency and scenario-planning to figure out how best to navigate the fast-changing situation."