日期: 5月 19, 2020
Mr S.S. Teo, Chairman, Singapore Business Federation：
Help Enterprises Adapt to the Post-Epidemic Period with Effective Solutions
How can the majority of Singaporean companies affected by the epidemic cope during these unprecendented times while undertaking bold business transformation in order to thrive post-COVID-19? This lies at the heart of what Chairman of the Singapore Business Federation (SBF), Mr S.S. Teo, hopes to address. SBF has been unrelenting in its efforts to help businesses since the COVID-19 outbreak, through policy recommendations and implementation, and the introduction of new initiatives. In this issue of “Combating the Pandemic”, Mr S.S. Teo shares his perspectives on Singapore’s market prospects, and his firm beliefs that through the joint efforts of SBF, trade associations and chambers and even other countries, Singapore businesses will be better-placed to tide over this challenging period.
1. How do you think the current Singapore economic situation is doing? How can enterprises survive and develop better in COVID-19?
Mr S.S. Teo：We are in unprecedented challenging times. Given Singapore’s open economy as an international trading hub with a small domestic market, we are especially vulnerable to external shocks. As with the Global Financial Crisis in 2009 and the SARS outbreak in 2003, this crisis has similarly revealed our economy’s highly globalised and interconnected character which emphasises any impact that emanates from beyond our shores. The Monetary Authority of Singapore has indicated that we may expect more job losses over the horizon as Singapore heads into its worst recession on record. The Ministry of Manpower has also recently released figures showing that the drop in employment during 1Q was the sharpest since the SARS outbreak.
However, our economy has proven to be resilient in part due to the agility of the Government’s timely responses, rolling out targeted support measures in quick succession in tandem with the severity of the situation. For example, our Post-Budget surveys have revealed that the enhanced Jobs Support Scheme (JSS) rolled out during the ‘Resilience’ and the ‘Solidarity’ budget packages found favour with businesses. This pandemic has highlighted the importance for our businesses to continually strengthen and improve on their business strategies, such as through digital transformation or supply chain diversification. We urge companies to make use of this downtime to encourage their workers to embark on skills upgrading and/or retraining so that they will be better-equipped for a new normal when the COVID-19 situation improves.
2. To reduce the impact of the pandemic, the Singapore government has launched a series of policies to support enterprises. What support can these policies provide for companies?
Mr S.S. Teo：A Singapore-registered subsidiary, be it partially- or fully-owned by a foreign entity, is considered a tax resident of Singapore. These subsidiaries will enjoy the tax incentives offered to Singapore tax residents. Under the JSS, the Government will co-fund the first $4,600 of gross monthly wages paid to each local employee for nine months. The co-funding amount ranges from 25% to 75%, depending on the sector. The JSS was further enhanced, in view of the Circuit Breaker measures put in place to curb the spread of the virus, to co-fund wages at 75% for all companies in April and May 2020. Branch office and representative office of foreign companies are however not eligible for any form of tax incentives, including the JSS.
3. What measures have SBF launched to help enterprises?
Mr S.S. Teo：In a bid to help companies during this period, SBF has launched the COVIDBiz Helpline to assist companies to navigate the COVID-19 related government advisories for businesses, various grants and measures announced, as well as to seek advisory on business support measures, amongst other services.
Companies faced with cash flow issues can also tap on the SBF-YBLN HOPE Fund, which has recently announced a partnership with CIMB Bank Singapore and Goldbell Financial Services, to provide additional funding to SMEs.
SBF is also running the SBF ManpowerConnect Scheme, which was first introduced on 2 March to help companies in the manufacturing and services sectors with their PRC work permit holders, by connecting releasing companies to hiring companies. As of 8 May, aside from helping foreign workers from other countries, the Scheme has also helped more than 870 PRC workers to switch employment. The Scheme has since been scaled up to help companies from all sectors with their foreign manpower needs. As part of the SGUnited Jobs Initiative, SBF will further expand the scheme to match Singapore companies that have local workforce redundancies to companies that are still hiring, including fresh graduates to traineeships under the SGUnited Traineeship programme.
We are also helping our members make sense of the various grants and measures introduced in the Singapore Budget through the SBF Navigate Webinar Series and SBF Business Resilience Advisory Programme.
4. In view of the deep impact of COVID-19 on the international industrial chain system and other fields, how do you think countries should respond in view of international and regional cooperation?
Mr S.S. Teo：The COVID-19 pandemic is a global problem that demands a global solution. Countries need to work together internationally and regionally, both in combating the pandemic and in mitigating the wide socio-economic impact resulting from the pandemic.
It is crucial that countries ensure the resilience of supply chains and resist protectionist measures so that medicines, medical equipment, and other supplies critical to the fight against COVID-19 can reach those who need it most.
For businesses which are already experiencing disruptions to operations and supply chains, commitments by governments to facilitate trade will help in managing risks. The provision of services, such as logistics, finance, legal, and information and communications technology, are also critical enablers for the trade in and supply of essential medical supplies and basic necessities. Facilitating and ensuring the resilience of these trade in services are equally important.
Digitalisation has also emerged as an important tool for businesses in enabling employees to continue working, providing goods and services to customers, and moving to online operations due to the forced closure of their physical shops. By strengthening digital connectivity with other countries and facilitating digital trade, countries can position their economies and businesses better for opportunities in the post-COVID world.
5. What do you think of China’s economic development prospects after COVID-19?
Mr S.S. Teo：China took swift, decisive and comprehensive measures to contain the COVID-19 outbreak. While the first quarter saw a negative impact on China’s economy, we believe the Chinese economy is resilient and will rebuild itself in time. Already, there are promising signs. According to data from the National Bureau of Statistics, China’s manufacturing Purchasing Managers Index (PMI) was 52 in March, up from an all-time low of 35.7 in February. Its non-manufacturing PMI, which covers construction and services sectors, also recovered to 52.3.
Today, China is sending medical aid, including essential supplies to countries around the world as they battle the pandemic, bolstering its influence and standing in the world.
I think all eyes are on China and its eventual economic rebound. How strong the rebound is and how the economy fares could be a crucial turning point not just for China but also the world.
6. Do you have any suggestions for better communication and cooperation between SBF and China Enterprises Association (Singapore) in the fight against the pandemic?
Mr S.S. Teo：SBF and CEA have enjoyed long-standing and interdependent relationships since CEA was established. With more frequent updates and communications with each other on our respective initiatives, we can show our support by sharing the programmes that are being run by CEA on our various channels, and vice versa.
We can also encourage and facilitate our member companies to help one another in times of need. The recent surgical mask donation by CEA’s member company China Construction Bank Corporation (CCB) Singapore Branch is a good example. Coordinated by SBF and the Restaurant Association of Singapore, CCB donated 20,000 surgical masks to frontline F&B staff in late April.
7. What suggestions and expectations do you have for the Singapore government to help enterprises overcome difficulties on the next step?
Mr S.S. Teo：It is imperative that we gear up our businesses for recovery. This crisis will pass and how we emerge from it will determine the speed of our economy’s growth and its trajectory. It is incumbent upon businesses to continually innovate and find creative ways to improve on their business strategies.
The Government’s various stimulus packages – Unity, Resilience and Solidarity Budgets – have sought to mitigate the impact on the affected sectors with targeted measures. However, this pandemic has drummed home to businesses the importance of embarking on digital transformation to streamline manual work processes and operations. Businesses would do well to leverage on available Government incentives to upscale and cater to changing consumer behaviour with greater precision.
For now, to deal with the uncertainties arising from the COVID-19 outbreak, SBF has been raising awareness on the various Government support schemes and resources that they can leverage, one of which is IMDA and SGTech’s curated package of technology solutions. Some of the solutions include remote working, visitor management, e-billing and e-payment, and e-commerce, which will ensure business continuity and allow companies to manage their operational challenges and be better positioned to capture new business opportunities when the economy recovers.
Moving forward, companies can also tap on the SkillsFuture Enterprise Credit to invest in enterprise transformation and boost their employees’ capabilities through job redesign initiatives and training courses.
The Government has been emphasising, and we believe, will continue to do so, to create a conducive ecosystem for businesses to thrive and to stay attuned to changes in the environment. Doing so would also facilitate upscaling and businesses’ internationalisation plans.
 Joint Ministerial Statement by Singapore and New Zealand affirming commitment to ensuring supply chain connectivity amidst the COVID-19 Situation and Joint Ministerial Statement by Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Myanmar, New Zealand and Singapore affirming commitment to ensuring supply chain connectivity amidst the COVID-19 situation.
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