Businesses call for more rental relief, wage support and loan moratoriums amid tightened Covid-19 measures

SINGAPORE – Several business associations have called for help in areas such as rental relief, wage support and loan moratoriums, as Singapore tightens measures amid a resurgence in Covid-19 infections in the community.

The Alliance of Frontline Business Trade Associations on Wednesday (July 21) outlined these three means through which it seeks support to ensure the sustainability of businesses in the retail, food and beverage (F&B) and services sectors.

It appealed for landlords to provide rental rebates commensurate with the revenue impact when the tighter restrictions are imposed. It also seeks wage support from the Government to help businesses keep as many jobs for Singaporeans as possible.

Lastly, it asked for bank loan principal moratoriums to be extended to June 2022.

The statement from the alliance came a day after Singapore announced that it will revert to phase two (heightened alert) from Thursday till Aug 18.

Under these measures, dining-in at food and beverage establishments will be banned, with operators allowed to offer only takeaway and delivery services.

Operating capacity for malls will be cut, from a maximum occupancy limit of 16 sq m of gross floor area per person to 10 sq m per person.

The alliance consists of the Association of Small and Medium Enterprises (Asme), the Restaurant Association of Singapore (RAS), Singapore Retailers Association (SRA) and Singapore Tenants United for Fairness (SGTUFF).

At a virtual press conference on Wednesday, SGTUFF chairman Terence Yow said that there has been “very sporadic and selective help given by landlords”, and that the last time significant help was extended was last year when it was mandated by the government.

“The vast majority of frontline businesses have not received significant support from landlords for our rentals, the main rental help (is coming) from the government and it is coming next month,” he said.

RAS president Andrew Kwan noted the rollercoaster ride which the F&B industry has been through, with various changes to dining-in capacity and allowances over the past 16 months.

Asked if the latest measures could sink the industry, he said that like other sectors, many operators are at a point where their reserves have been fully exhausted.

“If the industry is (left) to its own devices, I think the reading is that many would face a shutdown, and that would not be good overall because not only does the company go down, it carries along with it all the employees as well.”

Acknowledging that there have already been casualties in the industry despite various support measures given out previously, Mr Kwan said that there is likely to be consolidation in the industry, and there is a need for a new business model which takes into consideration the lessons learnt over the last year and a half.

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SRA president R. Dhinakaran, who is managing director of fashion distributor Jay Gee Melwani Group, also called for higher wage support through the Jobs Support Scheme during this upcoming heightened alert phase, as well as foreign worker levy waivers to help cushion manpower costs.

A support package for businesses and workers affected by the heightened alert phase from Thursday is expected to be announced in the next few days, Finance Minister Lawrence Wong had said on Tuesday.

It is expected to take reference from the support provided in the previous phase two (heightened alert) period from May 16 to June 13.

Small and medium-sized enterprises and non-profit organisations which are tenants in privately owned commercial properties qualified for a direct, half-month rental relief cash payout for the heightened alert period in May. The relief will be disbursed from mid-August.

Qualifying tenants in government-owned commercial properties will receive one month of rental relief for the May 16 to June 13 period.

Some major landlords, such as CapitaLand and City Developments Limited, offered various support measures during the period, including rental rebates, delaying rent payments and waiving platform fees.

Affected businesses also received up to 50 per cent wage support under the Jobs Support Scheme for the period.

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