Frontline businesses seek help

Shaken by the tighter restrictions that kicked in yesterday, frontline businesses have made an urgent appeal for help as they are not sure if they can sustain themselves.

Several associations, representing businesses in the retail, food and beverage (F&B) and service sectors among others, collectively asked for rental relief, additional wage support and extended loan moratoriums on Wednesday.

Finance Minister Lawrence Wong indicated in a Facebook post that help is soon to come for the beleaguered sectors.

"The Ministry of Finance team is now working hard to put together a package to support affected businesses and workers," he wrote on Wednesday. "I will announce the details soon."

The F&B and retail trade sectors employ around 370,000 workers between them. They indicated that many players were in dire straits as Singapore reverted to phase two (heightened alert) measures from yesterday until Aug 18 to stem the spread of Covid-19 cases in the community.

"After 16 months of a roller-coaster pandemic crisis, businesses which have managed to survive thus far are burdened by the loss of revenue and their ability to sustain jobs and afford rentals," said the Alliance of Frontline Business Trade Associations on Wednesday.

The alliance, which includes trade bodies representing retailers, small businesses, F&B players and tenants, asked landlords to provide rental rebates commensurate with the revenue impact when the tighter restrictions are imposed.

It also sought 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 next year.

At a virtual press conference on Wednesday, Mr Terence Yow, chairman of Singapore Tenants United for Fairness, which is one of the components of the alliance, said that there has been "very sporadic and selective help given by landlords".

He said that the last time significant help was extended was last year, when it was mandated by the Government.

Singapore Retailers Association president R. Dhinakaran asked for foreign worker levy waivers to cushion manpower costs.

Restaurant Association of Singapore president Andrew Kwan added that, like in other sectors, many F&B 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," he said.

The Straits Times

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