SINGAPORE: The COVID-19 outbreak in China is “stabilising with a progressive return to normalcy”, said Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry Chee Hong Tat on Wednesday (Mar 25).
Many companies across China have gradually resumed their operations, while data from mid-March showed that around 80 per cent of Chinese workers have returned to work from their hometowns.
China’s commerce ministry has also introduced measures to support foreign firms, including expediting license approvals and resolving labour shortages, said Mr Chee.
Singapore firms have begun resuming operations in China, he added, citing a survey conducted by the Singapore Chamber of Commerce and Industry in China last month which showed around 70 per cent of firms doing so.
This figure is expected to rise as the situation in China gradually improves, he said in response to questions from Member of Parliament Saktiandi Supaat.
Mr Saktiandi had asked about the number of factories based in China, namely in Hubei, Zhejiang, Henan and Guangdong, that are run by Singapore small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). He also wanted to know if authorities saw a need to relocate these factories and if assistance would be available to SMEs that wished to move their operations.
Authorities do not have data on the number of factories that local SMEs set up overseas, Mr Chee said in his reply.
But he noted that Singapore’s direct investment abroad (DIA) across Hubei, Zhejiang, Henan and Guangdong account for about 17 per cent of the country’s total DIA in China.
DIA refers to an investment where a Singapore direct investor owns 10 per cent or more of the ordinary shares or voting power in an overseas enterprise.
Mr Chee also said that the decision to relocate factories in these four Chinese provinces is a "commercial" one.
Given the size and growth potential of the Chinese economy, many businesses are “likely to see continued value” in keeping some production capabilities close to their final demand markets in China, he added.
Mr Chee said SMEs may tap on the Enterprise Financing Scheme if they wish to relocate their operations.
For those looking to explore new markets, they may also benefit from Enterprise Singapore’s network of Overseas Centres, the enhanced Market Readiness Assistance grant and the Singapore Business Federation’s advisory services on internationalisation.
China, where COVID-19 first emerged in December last year, has seen a drop in new infections in recent weeks. It reported 78 new cases of the deadly coronavirus on Tuesday, with the vast majority being brought in from overseas.
Local officials in the central Hubei province also said on Tuesday that travel curbs will be lifted after a two-month lockdown.
Thus far, there have been more than 81,000 cases of infections in China, with 3,277 deaths.