SBF poll reveals businesses want a bigger second stimulus package soon

Given the worsening of both the global economy and COVID-19 outbreak, businesses hope for more support in defraying wage costs, more tax rebates and more assistance with manpower challenges including hiring, upskilling and retention of workers.

This is according to a poll conducted by the Singapore Business Federation during its Budget 2020 webinar on March 13, two days after Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat announced that the Government has started working on a second stimulus package. Out of the 188 poll respondents, 69 percent were small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

Besides support for defraying wage costs (21%), more tax rebates (17%) and support in the area of manpower (15%), businesses also want more help with managing cashflow (13%) and rental costs (11%).

Businesses (73%) also believe that the second stimulus package should be as large as or greater than the S$4 billion Stabilisation and Support Package announced by DPM Heng in Budget 2020. Slightly more than half (55%) hope that it can be rolled out immediately or in a month’s time, signaling an urgency for the second stimulus package to be disbursed.

On a slightly more positive note, 86 percent of respondents indicated that their business is ready to ride out the current situation for at least six months, with the remainder expecting to hold out for at least three months.

The COVID-19 outbreak may also put the brakes on the efforts of companies to transform and expand overseas. 87% of businesses expect the current situation to moderately impact their plans to transform and internationalize.

The findings of the poll were shared with Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat and Minister for Trade & Industry Chan Chun Sing at a closed-door dialogue organised by SBF with more than 40 business leaders, including trade associations and chambers (TACs), on 20 March.

Mr S.S. Teo, Chairman of SBF said, “As the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak on our businesses, communities and workers continues to unfold, it is more important than ever for the business community to rally together to help one another. At the end of day, we’re all in this together and have a responsibility to collaborate with our suppliers, customers, employees, peers as well as the Government to protect jobs and keep businesses moving.”

“We are looking forward to the second stimulus package and are confident that it will help our businesses, both big and small, as well as their workers tide over the outbreak in the short to medium term. I also urge businesses to stay calm, remain confident and to stay the course in preparation for the recovery that will come,” he continued.

Mr Ho Meng Kit, CEO of SBF said, “It’s uncertain how long the COVID-19 outbreak may last. We urge the business community to work on contingency and scenario-planning to figure out how best to navigate the fast-changing situation. They should closely follow the advisories issued by various Government agencies. Budget 2020 has many Growth and Transformation measures for businesses. They should also focus on how they can tap these to best prepare themselves for the upturn when it comes.”