Singapore’s Fortitude Budget finds a welcome response

Feedback from industry stakeholders shows that much effort has gone into helping the government under​stand the MICE industry’s unique circumstances in securing the latest enhancements to the budget

Arthur Kiong, CEO of Far East Hospitality: the Fortitude Budget’s new initiatives such as the SGUnited Traineeship programme and SGUnited Skills programme will be helpful. Credit: Far East Hospitality
Arthur Kiong, CEO of Far East Hospitality: the Fortitude Budget’s new initiatives such as the SGUnited Traineeship programme and SGUnited Skills programme will be helpful. Credit: Far East Hospitality

SINGAPORE - Since the announcement of the Fortitude Budget on 26 May, M&C Asia has garnered various comments from the MICE trade showing support and relief for the new budget, whilst further appeals are being lodged by those hoping to receive higher wage subsidies.

Mr Arthur Kiong, CEO of Far East Hospitality, said: "The aviation and tourism industry has been heavily impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, and will also have to face a longer wait to reopen fully compared to other industries. In view of this, the latest Fortitude Budget is a thoughtful move, and reflects the government's deep understanding of the challenges the industry faces.

"For the MICE sector, the enhanced Job Support Scheme will help to alleviate some cost pressures from cancellations or deferment of events, and loss of sales.

"The Fortitude Budget has also introduced new initiatives or incentives such as the SGUnited Traineeship programme and SGUnited Skills programme. At Far East Hospitality, we have been using the current downtime to provide training for our people to build staff capabilities. The enhanced jobs and skills initiatives will certainly be helpful for us to continue with our training journey."

MPC Events chief experience officer, Ms Crystal Chua, said her company did not qualify for the Tier 1 subsidy. "We have submitted an appeal so will need to wait again," she said.

EXPO AV-INSYNC managing director, Mr Gerard Rodrigues, said: "As of now, I'm in Tier 2, because as you've come to realise, it is all dependant on your SSIC/ Activity codes. The problem with our industry, specifically the AV industry, is that we have various activity codes and it all boils down to us not being able to have our own common identities over the years. I have submitted an appeal through the JSS Appeal website to ask for a 75% JSS support together with all my supporting documents. Fingers and toes crossed."

A Singapore Standard Industrial Classification (SSIC) is a code assigned to classify business activities carried out in Singapore.

STB's response
STB has responded with the following information on what MICE stakeholders can do during this time:
The MICE industry can tap on schemes including the Job Support Scheme (JSS), where the government subsidises 75% of the first $4,600 of gross salary through the month of May 2020. Firms that organise MICE events will now also be eligible for the 75% wage support.

This includes the wages of employees of a company who are also shareholders and directors of the company (shareholder-directors), with Assessable Income of $100,000 or less for Year of Assessment 2019.

The May 2020 and subsequent JSS payouts will include support for qualifying shareholder-directors. As announced in the Fortitude budget, the JSS will be extended by one month to cover wages paid in August 2020, bringing the total wage support under the JSS to 10 months.

In addition, MICE-related businesses can also continue to tap on other schemes such as:
o    Deferment of Income Tax for businesses and self-employed persons by 3 months
o    Total bridging loan, where the maximum supported loan has been raised from $1m to $5m
o    Higher proportion of course fees subsidised (90%, up from 80%) and higher absentee payroll (90% of basic salary up from 80%) for SkillsFuture Approved training programmes.
o    SkillsFuture Study Award, which awards $5,000 to mid-career individuals to develop and deepen their skills in the MICE sector.
o    Virtual MICE Professional Development courses, organised by the Singapore Association of Convention & Exhibition Organisers & Suppliers (SACEOS),
o    These include Professional Conference Management, and Certified Meeting Professional courses, etc. Daily consultations via "Virtual Meetings" during the Circuit Breaker period are also available so that SACEOS remains accessible to support the industry.
o    Self-Employed Person Income Relief Scheme (SIRS) where Eligible persons receive $1,000/mth for 9 months. The SIRS annual value threshold has been increased from $13,000 to $21,000 now.
o    Foreign Worker Levy and Waiver Rebate will be extended by up to 2 months for businesses that are not allowed to resume on-site operations after circuit breaker. 100% waiver and $750 rebate in June 2020, and 50% waiver and $375 rebate in July 2020.
o    $2 billion in cash grants will also be used to help SME tenants with rental costs. The government will offset another 2 months' rental for qualifying SME tenants of commercial properties; offset 1 months' rent for qualifying SME tenants of industrial and office properties.

STB executive director, Conventions, Meetings & Incentive Travel, Edward Koh: STB is ready to help MICE event organisers in clarifying and obtaining the support their companies are eligible for. Credit: STB

STB executive director, Conventions, Meetings & Incentive Travel, Dr Edward Koh, said: "STB is working closely with the relevant government agencies on the safe management measures, and will adjust them accordingly as we enter each phase after the circuit breaker. We will continue to engage SACEOS and the MICE industry to help them prepare and implement all safe management measures before they resume operations, and welcome their feedback on how to ensure their events can proceed safely.

"We also recognise that sectors such as aviation and tourism are expected to take longer to reopen fully. The government will consider providing further help - depending on the situation, longer term shape of these industries, and plans for the economy.

"In the meantime, we encourage all MICE industry partners to use this downtime to rethink event formats, explore new partnerships and upskill for a post-COVID-19 world, so that we are well positioned for recovery when the time comes.

"STB is working closely with MICE event organisers (EOs) and suppliers impacted by tourism loss who require assistance. We understand the position and uncertainty some companies are facing, and STB is ready to help MICE EOs in clarifying and obtaining the support their companies are eligible for."

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