Executive Summary

PSP SUPPORTS EFFORTS IN TRYING TO CONTROL COVID-19 – ASKS GOVERNMENT TO PROVIDE HELP TO SINGAPOREANS AND LOCAL BUSINESSES IN A MORE TIMELY AND BROAD-BASED MANNER

 

Progress Singapore Party (PSP) supports the Government for taking decisive action in activating our Past Reserves (“Reserves”) to help us tide over the current Health and Economic Emergency (“Emergency”).

PSP empathises with all that are affected by this unprecedented crisis. With a rapidly deteriorating situation, we urge for

(i) speedy delivery of the relief package to struggling Singaporeans and local businesses, many of whom are facing immediate cashflow problems

(ii) flexibility in waiving certain criteria for providing financial aid, or where documentary evidence may not be up to the Government’s standards

(iii) a better way to disburse the Temporary Relief Fund (TFR) without requiring queues in a pandemic

(iv) review the maximum fine of $5000 on landlords who do not pass on the rebates to their tenants

 

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced several movement control measures like the closure of schools and workplaces. PSP fully supports these control measures as it would save lives. We also welcome and look forward to the additional measures Finance Minister Heng will be introducing in Parliament on Monday.

In the meantime, we express our deepest gratitude to all the frontline healthcare workers who are fighting every day to keep all of us safe.

 

 

PSP SUPPORTS EFFORTS IN TRYING TO CONTROL COVID-19 – ASKS GOVERNMENT TO PROVIDE HELP TO SINGAPOREANS AND LOCAL BUSINESSES IN A MORE TIMELY AND BROAD-BASED MANNER

Progress Singapore Party (PSP) supports the Government for taking decisive action in activating our Past Reserves (“Reserves”) to help us tide over the current Health and Economic Emergency (“Emergency”).

 

SITUATION DETERIORATING AT AN ACCELARATED PACE

As economies break down globally, all hands must be on deck to help Singaporeans and our local businesses stay afloat and pull through the Covid-19 pandemic. PSP empathises with all that are affected by this unprecedented crisis.

We have received feedback that the situation is deteriorating at an accelerating pace on the ground. As such, our focus should be in delivering the relief package as quickly as possible, without any red-tape, to struggling Singaporeans and local businesses.

 

RELIEVE UNNECESSARY BURDEN ON THE PEOPLE

We are glad that the most vulnerable in society who are not covered by Comcare, will receive help almost immediately with the disbursement of the Temporary Relief Fund (TRF) in the month of April. The TRF is targeted at those who face hardship due to an income loss of at least 30 per cent due to the pandemic.

We, however, note that thousands of Singaporeans had to queue to get financial aid at social service offices and Community Centres as applications for TRF opened . In a pandemic, there surely must be a way to better protect citizens than having them to physically queue just to get temporary relief.

We hope that those facing hardships are not made to go through unnecessary obstacles and provide onerous documentary evidences before funds are disbursed. Many Singaporeans in the Gig Economy will not have adequate documentary evidence to show their contract for service and/or the payments they receive on a monthly basis.

 

EXPEDITE HELP FOR LOCAL BUSINESSES WHICH ARE BLEEDING

As for our local businesses, only $600 million flowed into the hands of our local businesses at the end of March. This is insufficient to stop the bleeding of our local companies, especially the small and medium enterprises. The #savefnbsg Instagram campaign by over 400 restaurants , suggests that our Food & Beverage (F&B) industry is suffering huge losses.

The campaign says that despite the relief measures introduced in Budget 2020 and the Stimulus Package, 88% of the businesses may close shop permanently in the next 30 days if the situation does not improve, and more than 81% of employers in the F&B industry plan to lay off more staff in the immediate future. 6 in 10 operators have already let go of employees due to financial woes.

According to this particular Instagram campaign of 400 F&B operators, all of them are confused as to how the Budget measures will benefit them. All the operators in this campaign have also indicated that the current reliefs from their landlords are insufficient to continue their businesses.

By the end of May, $5.6 billion would have been paid out under the Jobs Support Scheme and the Wage Credit Scheme to employers and only in October will another $16.2 billion flow into hands of corporations. Between now and May, there is about 1-month before the smaller trench of payouts flow into the hands of the employers, and the bigger trench will take about 6-months to reach them. PSP urges the Government to expedite the disbursement of the funds so as to provide urgent relief to businesses.

 

ENSURING PROPERTY TAX REBATES ARE PASSED ON TO TENANTS – PENALTY IN DRAFT BILL IS INADEQUATE

In our pre-Stimulus Package statement, we had pointed out this issue of commercial landlords not passing on the property tax rebates to their tenants during this challenging period and proposed that the stimulus package offer tenants of government property a rental fee reduction by two-thirds until the Covid-19 crisis ends. In addition, we proposed that landlords who reduce rent for their tenants, to receive a tax cut on income and corporate taxes on 50% of the deducted rent (regardless of a landlord’s income or rent amount).

Such a measure, if it had been adopted by the Finance Minister, will require landlords to show that they are helping tenants first before the government chips in. These proposals, which would have benefited both landlords and tenants fairly in this very difficult time, was not adopted by the Finance Minister. This despite the Government knowing that many landlords were not passing on the savings from the tax rebates to their tenants . This is a glaring error in judgment by the Government which now could only be rectified by new legislation .

However, in the draft COVID-19 (Temporary Measures) Bill prepared by MinLaw, clause 29 (6) states that “If the owner, without reasonable excuse, fails to pass the benefit to the tenant in accordance with subsection (2), or fails to comply with subsection (5), the owner shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding $5,000.”

Our property tax rate for commercial property is 10%. Therefore, for any commercial property with an annual value of $50,000 and above (this means estimated market rent of approximately $4,167 per month), the property tax rebate is more than the maximum fine of $5,000. In comparison, the penalty for tax evasion is 3 times the tax evaded and/or imprisonment. This disparity in penalties is incomprehensible. We propose that the penalty should be similarly thrice the amount of property tax rebate involved.

 

EMPATHISING WITH THE HARDSHIPS OF OUR PEOPLE

This unprecedented crisis has brought on insurmountable hardship on our people. PSP feels for the food delivery person like Mr Chia Meng Guai who suddenly found himself out of work because of the crisis and had to be helped by a group of kind-hearted hawkers and other Singaporeans . We empathise with Singaporeans who now have to moonlight and take on second jobs to mitigate the impact of Covid-19 on their livelihoods . The anxiety of the Singaporeans who have lost their jobs but have families and little ones to support; who now have to wait in line just to get that $500 and still not know if they qualify for it. F&B outlets like Firegrill which can no longer sustain payment to suppliers and employees.

 

GLOBAL CRISIS NOT SEEN SINCE WORLD WAR 2

Covid-19 is the great leveler and does not discriminate between the young and the old or the rich and the poor. While we believe that we have to be extra prudent in how taxpayers’ monies are used and spent, let us be mindful that Covid-19 is the worst global crisis the world has seen since World War 2. In a crisis such as this, PSP urges the Government to exercise flexibility in waiving certain criteria for providing financial aid (like type of housing, percentage drop in income, who is a gig-worker, etc) and provide relief in a more broad-based manner.

 

SUPPORT MOVEMENT CONTROL MEASURES

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced several movement control measures like the closure of schools and workplaces. PSP fully supports these control measures as it would save lives. We also welcome and look forward to the additional measures Finance Minister Heng will be introducing in Parliament on Monday.

In the meantime, we express our deepest gratitude to all the frontline healthcare workers who are fighting every day to keep all of us safe.

 

For Country For People

 

 

Links:

Thousands of people queue to get S$500 financial aid at social service offices and CCs as applications open’, Today, Apr 2, 2020

https://www.instagram.com/explore/tags/savefnbsg/

Short-sighted of landlords not to pass on tax rebates: Chan’, ST dated Mar 4, 2020

Landlords who do not pass Covid-19 rebates to tenants may face legislative action: Heng Swee Keat’, Mothership, Apr 1, 2020

Man loses income as Geylang businesses shut, fish soup stall owners got him to deliver food for them, Today, Mar 31, 2020

Covid-19: Employers advised to allow, support workers to take on second jobs to supplement income’, Today Mar 30, 2020