SINGAPORE: The Government will introduce a Bill on Tuesday (Apr 7) to allow businesses and individuals to defer certain contractual obligations such as rent “for a period”, said Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat on Monday (Apr 6).
Speaking in a ministerial statement in Parliament on Monday, Mr Heng said the Bill will be introduced by the Minister for Law and will also cover the repayment of loans, as well as the completion of work.
These moves were part of a third round of support measures in a new Solidarity Budget to help tide businesses, workers and households through the COVID-19 outbreak.
The new Solidarity Budget was announced less than two weeks after Mr Heng unveiled an unparalleled S$48 billion package of measures in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong had on Friday announced sweeping new measures to curb the spread of COVID-19 including closing most workplaces and imposing full home-based learning for schools, likening the new measures to a “circuit breaker”.
These measures will help further support businesses with costs, said Mr Heng, with the Government taking “additional steps” to make sure that measures flow down to businesses.
The new Bill will also ensure that property owners pass on property tax rebates to tenants “in full”, explained Mr Heng.
“The Government will also continue to lead by example in supporting tenants,” he added. “I will increase the rental waiver for industrial, office and agricultural tenants of Government agencies to 1 month, up from 0.5 month’s rental waiver I announced at the Resilience Budget”
READ: Government to introduce legislation to make landlords pass on property tax rebates to tenants ‘in full’
The monthly Foreign Worker Levy due in April will also be waived, announced Mr Heng. This move will help reduce the costs of firms that hire foreign workers on work permits and S-passes and relieve the pressures on their cash flow, he added.
“Many employers also hire foreign workers on work permits and S-passes. In the same spirit, employers should take care of these workers who will also face difficulties during this circuit breaker period,” he said.
“By taking care of their workers, our firms can resume operations quickly once the heightened measures are lifted.”
In addition, the Government will also provide employers with a Foreign Worker Levy Rebate of S$750 for each work permit or S pass holder, based on previous levies paid in 2020, added Mr Heng.
Employers will receive the rebate as early as Apr 21.
Mr Heng added: “The Government recognises that firms have been paying Foreign Worker Levies in normal times. So in these exceptional times, we are temporarily redirecting resources back to the firms, to enable them to provide support for their foreign workers.”
When it comes to credit, the Government will also further enhance financing support for enterprises, said Mr Heng. This will be to ensure that viable businesses can continue to have access to credit despite the uncertainty.
This means increasing the Government’s risk share of loans made under the Temporary Bridging Loan Programme; the Enterprise Financing Scheme – SME Working Capital Loan; and Enterprise Financing Scheme – Trade Loan from 80 to 90 per cent for loans initiated from Apr 8 until Mar 31 next year, said Mr Heng.
READ: COVID-19: Heng Swee Keat to announce third round of support measures in new ‘Solidarity Budget’
In addition, banks and finance companies can also apply for low-cost funding through a new Monetary Authority of Singapore Singapore Dollar facility, for new loans granted under the Enterprise Financing Scheme SME Working Capital Loan and Temporary Bridging Loan Programme, he added.
And if they do so, they must commit to pass on the savings to their borrowers.
Said Mr Heng: “The economy needs support and intervention in many different forms to go through this rough patch. “I urge all businesses, landlords, financial institutions and industry players to do your part, in channelling the government’s support measures to firms, workers and households.”