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Companies call on landlords to ‘share the pain’ as COVID-19 ties are tightened again

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SINGAPORE: Frontline businesses, including those in the F&B, retail and services sectors, called out for help on Wednesday (July 21) to ensure their survival, with revenues likely to take another hit as COVID-19 restrictions reappear tightened up.

From Thursday through August 18, dining in the restaurant will be suspended and all social gatherings will be limited to two people.

READ: Return to Stage 2 (heightened warning): Dining will be suspended, group sizes back to 2

The Alliance of Frontline Business Trade Associations said they are “deeply concerned about the sustainability of our businesses”.

Central to their appeal was that landlords should share the burden. The alliance acknowledged that the government has provided assistance, but asked landlords to do more.

At a press conference, Mr. Kurt Wee, president of the Association of Small & Medium Businesses (ASME), said he notices a difference in landlord behavior.

“Last year there was mandatory legislation to share the pain,” he noted.

“I have to say that since the first Stage 2 (Raised Alert) situation, and until now, although there (are) selective announcements of auxiliary fragments … from where we see it, there is hardly any sharing of pain this round. “

“SPORADIC AND SELECTIVE” HELP

Following on from this was Mr Terence Yow, chairman of the Singapore Tenants United for Fairness (SGTUFF), who said help from landlords was “sporadic and selective”.

“We can easily say that 80.90 percent of tenants in our communities have not received help from landlords since May,” said Mr. Yow.

“In fact, the last time we got really significant help from landlords was last year,” he added, referring to the circuit breaker period, when landlord assistance was mandatory.

The alliance suggested a “variable” rent payment model that would mean rent discounts are linked to revenue decline.

“If your sales are down 50 percent, we’ll ask landlords to then cut the gross rent by 50 percent, so it’s very fair,” said Mr. Yow, adding that the rent wouldn’t be a “random number.” ”.

The other members of the alliance are the Restaurant Association of Singapore (RAS) and the Singapore Retailers Association (SRA), whose representatives also attended the press conference.

The alliance also said that while some sectors remain open, there will be knock-on effects when dining is suspended as people don’t go out as much.

TIME OF APPEAL

On the timing of the appeal, RAS president Andrew Kwan acknowledged that there are some landlords who have helped their tenants.

But he said the latest round of restrictions is coming to a point where many companies have “completely exhausted” their reserves.

“If the industry is left to its own devices. I think the reading is that many, many would face a shutdown, and that’s generally not going to be a good thing, because not only will the company go under, but it will bring all the employees along with it,” he said.

Likewise, Mr Yow, who estimates 10 to 20 percent of businesses have closed since the start of the pandemic, said many businesses are in the “deep red.”

“We honestly think this is the last chance or opportunity for us to hold out,” he said.

The alliance also called for wage support measures and an extension of bank loan moratoriums until June 2022.

Even as it made these requests for aid, the alliance acknowledged that the affected sectors have received support from the government.

Authorities said on Tuesday that the government will provide a support package to affected businesses and workers in view of the latest curb.

The package will reference the support provided in the previous Phase 2 (Increased Alert), which lasted from May 16 to June 13. At the time, the government offered assistance, such as wage support and housing benefit.

On Wednesday, Mr Kwan said: “We really hope that all of Singapore can come together … as we saw last year, all stakeholders came together.”

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