SINGAPORE: Over the past 18 months, more firms have been set up than closed in Singapore, despite the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Between March 2020 and September 2021, more than 73,000 business entities ceased operations, while nearly 103,600 were formed, Minister of State for Trade and Industry Low Yen Ling told Parliament on Wednesday (Nov 3).
Responding to a question from Member of Parliament (MP) Wan Rizal (PAP – Jalan Besar), Ms Low explained that over the last two years, about 3,840 firms were deregistered on average each month – similar to the period from 2017 to 2019.
But at the same time, a monthly average of more than 5,000 new firms were registered, “reflecting an increase in the total number of businesses operating in Singapore”.
Noting that "business formations continue to flourish”, she added that the sectors with the largest number of new businesses formed included professional services, wholesale trade, and retail.
She said: “In the last few years, the Government has committed substantial resources to help our businesses weather the immediate impact of COVID-19. We are also helping our businesses prepare for post-COVID-19 recovery and continuing to enhance Singapore's position as a business hub in several ways.”
This includes strengthening physical and digital connectivity, through the re-opening of borders and investing in digital infrastructure and capability building for firms.
Authorities are also helping firms capture new opportunities, such as those from the green sector, said Ms Low. Sector-specific transformation plans are also underway.
RETAIL AND TOURISM SECTOR
MP Saktiandi Supaat (PAP- Bishan-Toa Payoh) also asked about the situation in retail and tourism-related sectors, which have been battered by the pandemic.
Minister of State for Trade and Industry Alvin Tan noted that from January 2020 to September 2021, 8,600 retail businesses have shuttered. This is 330 more than the same period between 2018 and 2019.
“However, there were 15,570 new retail businesses set up, resulting in a net increase of 6,970 retail firms over the same period from January 2020 to September 2021,” said Mr Tan.
As for the tourism industry, there have been “some exits” since January last year, but new entrants have kept the number of businesses in operation “fairly stable”, he said.
For instance, though 13 hotels have shut, the number of licensed hotels remains at around 420.
The total number of licensed tourist guides also still hovers around 2,900, even though 176 guides chose not to renew their licences during this period, he said.
Travel agents have been harder hit, with 157 – or eight per cent of all licensed travel agents – ceasing operations, although around 30 new ones entered the market.
HOW MANY WORKERS RETRENCHED?
Between January 2020 and Oct 20, 2021, about 4,370 workers across core tourism industries were retrenched – and 58 per cent of them were locals, said Mr Tan.
“However, with early intervention and support under the SG United Jobs and Skills initiative, 67 per cent of the locals who were retrenched between January and September 2020 found new employment within six months.”
He added that in 2020, about 1,180 retail employees were retrenched, translating to 16.9 retrenched workers per 1,000 employees. More than half of them were able to enter a different industry within six months of retrenchment.
As for tourist guides, about 250 have served as safe distancing ambassadors under the Singapore Tourism Board (STB), he said.
Mr Tan reiterated that the Government has provided the sector with the highest tier of support under the Jobs Support Scheme, alongside other broad-based measures.
“Initiatives such as the SingapoRediscovers Vouchers (SRV) scheme have also helped stimulate demand by encouraging Singaporeans to rediscover our city, our tourism product offerings and support our local tourism businesses, including those of travel agents,” he said.
For instance, between the launch of the SRV scheme and the start of Heightened Alert in May 2021, monthly tour participants grew from more than 10,000, to more than 50,000.
The Singapore Tourism Board expects tourism to reach pre-pandemic levels in the next few years, said Mr Tan, adding that in the meantime, authorities are helping firms in retail and tourism sectors upgrade themselves.