SINGAPORE: Another S$320 million has been set aside to extend foreign worker levy rebates for firms in the construction, marine shipyard and process sectors, said the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) on Saturday (Aug 1).
The move follows feedback that the majority of about 15,000 firms in these sectors are still facing financial difficulties, as they are unable to resume work due to COVID-19 measures, said MOM in a press release.
"This situation is likely to persist until the foreign worker dormitories are fully cleared in August 2020 and their workers are progressively allowed to resume work thereafter," said MOM.
As of Tuesday, about 85 per cent of foreign workers - or about 262,000 workers - have either recovered or been tested to be free from COVID-19, up from the 247,000 reported last week, according to an update by MOM on Wednesday.
Many of them are staying in cleared dormitories or blocks for recovered workers and can only resume work once dormitory operators, employers and workers have made the necessary preparations to help minimise the risk of new infections.
FOREIGN WORKER LEVY WAIVER EXTENDED UNTIL DECEMBER
Under the Fortitude Budget, all firms in the construction, marine shipyard and process sectors received a 100 per cent waiver for levies due in June and a 50 per cent waiver for levies due in July.
MOM said on Saturday it will increase the waiver for levies due in July to 100 per cent. Employers who have paid the 50 per cent levies originally due in July will have the amount refunded to them, said the ministry.
Levies due in August and September will also be fully waived, said MOM.
Additionally, the foreign worker levy waiver support will be gradually tapered down until the end of the year, a move that is aimed at giving firms more time to adjust, said the ministry.
As such, employers will have 75 per cent of the levies due in October waived, followed by 50 per cent for levies due in November and 25 per cent for levies due in December.
READ: From manhole to sampling bottle: How wastewater helps indicate presence of COVID-19 in foreign worker dormitories
S$375 FOREIGN WORKER LEVY REBATE EXTENDED FOR 2 MONTHS
MOM also said in its release that the S$375 foreign worker levy rebate for July that was announced in the Fortitude Budget will be extended for another two months.
This means that firms in the three sectors will receive a S$375 rebate per S Pass and Work Permit holder for August and September. This replaces the S$90 rebate announced on Jun 27.
The rebate will remain at S$90 between October this year and December 2021.
"These have been very challenging times for the construction, marine shipyard and process sectors," Manpower Minister Josephine Teo said in a Facebook post on Saturday.
"With many of their foreign workers unable to be deployed while the dormitories clearance process is ongoing, firms have been facing financial difficulties. Cashflow is a major concern, especially since payment is tied to completion milestones and firms still have high overheads."
Mrs Teo said the Government recognises the challenges faced by the industries and is "working hard" to complete the dormitories clearance process and implement COVID-Safe Restart measures so that work can resume safely on worksites.
She added, however, that even after the dormitories are cleared in August, it will take some time for the situation to "fully stabilise".
"Much as we want to speed things up, we have to be sure we do a thorough job, so that the sector is not affected by another outbreak," she said.
In a media release, the Singapore Contractors Association Ltd (SCAL) said it is thankful for the further relief.
"The various government support schemes had helped many companies reduce their losses and keep them afloat. The support schemes helped to reduce large layoffs and had benefited more than 100,000 in local workforce in the construction industry," said the association.
"SCAL will continue to work closely with all government agencies to restart our projects quickly and safely and to emerge stronger from this pandemic."