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Covid-19: Chan Chun Sing calls on landlords to 'do their part' as tenants clamour for lower rents

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Singapore's major landlords should “do their part together” amid the business impact of the Covid-19 outbreak, Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing has suggested.

SINGAPORE’S major landlords should “do their part together” amid the business impact of the Covid-19 outbreak, Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing has suggested.

Speaking in the House on Tuesday, Mr Chan weighed in on the feud between some mall owners and their food and beverage tenants, over the delivery of promised rental rebates.

The issue, which cropped up in a statement by the Restaurant Association of Singapore (RAS) on Sunday night, was also raised by Member of Parliament Liang Eng Hwa (Holland-Bukit Timah GRC).

Government agency Enterprise Singapore has been in “close consultation” with both the RAS and the Singapore Retailers Association as they work with landlords, “and I would like to urge all the major landlords to do their part together”, Mr Chan replied.

“We should try to give a bit more help to those that are more affected by the downturn caused by the Covid-19. If we can do this all together, we can go past this stronger together,” he said.

Mr Chan added that some public officers have been working around the clock over the past week, “trying to urge both sides to come to terms with each other”.

“Yes, we are aware that there are some issues between the retailers and the landlords. Let me just say this: We are all in this together,” he maintained. “The whole Singapore economy depends on businesses, landlords, retailers, everyone working together.”

Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat last month announced targeted support measures such as a property tax rebate of 15 per cent for certain commercial properties, which Mr Heng, who is also the finance minister, then urged landlords to translate into lower rents for their tenants.

Since then, “it has come to our attention that there is an entire spectrum of responses”, Mr Chan said on Tuesday. While some landlords “have proactively gone out of their way to share the rebates”, he also found that others “are still taking a bit of time to roll out their packages”.

He had earlier noted that “Covid-19 is badly hurting our tourism and aviation sectors” on a projected plunge in visitors, while “retail and food services have also been severely affected”.

“It would be very short-sighted for landlords to try to stinge and save a bit, here and there, instead of passing on some of the benefits to the tenants,” Mr Chan then said in his reply to Mr Liang.

Calling the relationship a long-term one, he noted: “When the tenants do well, the landlords do well. When the landlords do well, they need to share it with the tenants.”

Mr Chan remarked that “Singapore is not that big an economy”, and added pointedly: “I think every one of us will have long memories of who are those that have come forward to do their part for their business partners in this difficult moment, and who are those that have taken a very short-term perspective on this.”