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Covid-19: Singapore will match business support funds raised by private-sector groups

THE Singapore government will match funds that are raised by the private sector to support businesses in the year ahead, amid an outbreak of the new Covid-19 disease.

Enterprise Singapore (ESG) will give up to S$1 million to each support fund set up by trade associations and chambers (TACs) and industry groups, in an initiative launched on Tuesday.

That sum represents the cap for the public agency’s 20 per cent fund-matching commitment, under the new SG Together Enhancing Enterprise Resilience (Steer) programme.

The Singapore Furniture Industries Council (SFIC) will back the first fund to be supported by Steer, as it revives a member assistance scheme that was run in earlier downturns in 2001 and 2003.

Other TACs and industry groups can also suggest funds of their own to the ESG, with the money to be spent on business support measures such as capability upgrading, market diversification and business growth, working capital, and rental and wage support.

The Steer initiative was unveiled on Tuesday by Tan Wu Meng, Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Trade and Industry, at the Ministry of Trade and Industry’s Committee of Supply debate.

Said Dr Tan: “We will continue supporting our TACs and other industry groups to help companies get through today’s economic uncertainties and prepare for tomorrow’s recovery.”

TACs and industry groups - that is, tie-ups with at least five companies that are setting up a fund together - can apply for Steer from Tuesday until March 2, 2021.

Proposals will be assessed on factors such as the types of aid on offer, and how many local small and medium-sized enterprises are helped. The funds must be used within 18 months.

“The government will help businesses and workers tide over the immediate challenges due to Covid-19,” said Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry Chee Hong Tat.

“We are also committed to support businesses at different stages of growth to transform and prepare for the future, so that our companies and workers will emerge stronger.”

The SFIC later announced that each of its members, as at end-January, can get between S$1,000 and S$6,000 - depending on the length of their membership - under its S$1.23 million member assistance scheme.

The association's more than 300 members will be able to spend the credits on the cost of participation in activities such as trade fairs, digital business solution adoption, as well as training courses.