The Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) will implement necessary measures to help businesses and enterprises affected by the Wuhan virus, Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing said on Monday (Jan 27).
The outbreak is expected to affect Singapore’s economy, business and consumer confidence this year as the situation may persist for some time, Mr Chan said at a press conference by the multi-ministry task force on the Wuhan coronavirus. In particular, tourism-related sectors are of immediate concern, he said as reported by Straits Times.
He added that MTI will help these businesses and enterprises – including travel agents, hospitality industries, the food and beverage sector, retailers and air transport providers – reduce their business costs, alleviate cash-flow problems and retain workers.
The ministry is also working with the trade associations and chambers (TACs) to develop necessary support measures for the economy and Singapore’s workers, he said. He cited as examples several measures that were implemented in 2003 during the severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars) outbreak.
For tourism-related industries, some of the measures the Government can take and have taken previously include property tax rebates, reduction in the foreign worker levy for unskilled workers and the easing of working capital through a temporary bridging loan, he said.
He said these measures will help reduce the risk of a business going insolvent, leading to retrenchments.
He noted that since the outbreak, economic agencies, in particular the Singapore Tourism Board, have been in contact with TACs to manage the impact and to assess the help necessary.
“Our priority now is to work closely with the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) and NTUC to mitigate the fallout and support our workers affected to preserve their livelihoods.”
At the press conference on Monday, Manpower Minister Josephine Teo, who is also on the task force, said life must go on even as additional precautions are being taken. “Businesses must continue to operate, and our workers must be able to go to work,” she said.
She said her ministry has been working with employers and the unions to keep workplaces safe. Employers should familiarise themselves with the latest advisories on official channels like the Health Ministry and Manpower Ministry websites and the Gov.sg WhatsApp service, she added.
They should also implement recommended measures and contact the Manpower Ministry for advice if they have concerns or are unsure about what to do.