Budget goodies for companies should be targeted at retaining workers, improving wages: Josephine Teo

Budget goodies for companies should be targeted at retaining workers, improving wages: Josephine Teo

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Manpower Minister Josephine Teo and Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry Chee Hong Tat at a visit to Copthorne King’s Hotel on Feb 21, 2020. (Photo: Rachel Phua)

SINGAPORE: Focus on retaining workers and improving wages, and this will help bring business to companies, said Manpower Minister Josephine Teo.

She was speaking to reporters on the sidelines during a visit to Copthorne King’s Hotel on Friday (Feb 21) together with Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry Chee Hong Tat.

Both Mrs Teo and Mr Chee visited the hotel to see how it was responding to the COVID-19 outbreak. 

Mrs Teo touched on the S$1.3 billion Jobs Support Scheme and S$1.1 billion Wage Credit Scheme, which is part of the S$4 billion Stabilisation and Support package announced at this year’s Budget.

Part of the measures announced by Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat during the Budget on Tuesday includes a property tax rebate of between 15 and 30 per cent for commercial landlords. 

When asked why the property tax rebates were not higher, Mrs Teo said that managing costs was only one component of dealing with the current downturn. 

"A whopping 60 per cent of the Stabilisation and Support Package goes into the jobs part of it. Why is this so important? Because if you look at at how businesses are dealing with the current downturn, one part of it is managing costs," said Mrs Teo. 

“Even if you manage to say stay afloat, because the costs have been brought down, what you really need is for people to come back and start shopping, start going to restaurants and start consuming. And for that you need (their confidence) - feeling that their jobs are okay and their livelihoods are not compromised."

She added: "If you can take good care of that aspect, then I think it has a multiplier effect that goes well beyond all the other measures that we can do.”

READ: Budget 2020: S$4 billion support package for workers, firms amid COVID-19 outbreak

The Budget also contained measures to help employers offset 8 per cent of the wages of each local employee -  up to a monthly wage cap of S$3,600 - for three months, with payment made by end-July. 

Mrs Teo also explained that the foreign worker levy was not removed because the Government prioritises local employees. 

“When we provide the job support and wage credits, all employers of local employees will benefit,” she said. 

“If we were instead to do something with the foreign worker levy, then the employers who only have local employees, they don't really benefit from it.”

READ: F&B, retail businesses in CBD feel pinch as people work from home amid coronavirus concerns

READ: Businesses welcome S$4 billion package as timely relief, but some say more help needed

Mr Chee said that more important than helping companies cut cost is to push them to use this period to improve their capabilities and productivity, and raise the skills of their workers. 

“These are important because we know the recovery will come as a matter of time. And when the recovery comes, we want our companies and our workers to be ready to seize those new opportunities,” he said. 

Mr Chee also encouraged Singaporeans to continue supporting businesses here. 

“I think it's not only good for the businesses, it also gives confidence ... for tourists to gradually come back to Singapore.”

READ: Amid fears of 80% revenue loss due to COVID-19 outbreak, restaurants hope for rent rebates

HELP FOR TOUR GUIDES 

The Singapore Tourism Board on Friday announced that up to 3,000 tour guides will receive wage support of S$1,000 over three months “to provide some financial relief during this challenging period”. 

To encourage tour guides to upskill themselves amid the tourism lull, Workforce Singapore will give them a S$600 training allowance when they complete 80 hours of training. 

Source: CNA/aa(rw)

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