Singapore

1. Which financial (not tax or labour) short-term compensation schemes for immediate losses due to social distancing measures have been implemented? For which industries/sizes of business?

As of 26 March 2020, Singapore has committed over SGD 55 billion to fund a Unity Budget and a supplementary Resilience Budget aimed at protecting Singaporeans and businesses affected by the COVID-19 crisis. 

To help businesses overcome immediate challenges regarding cashflow & cost and credit, the Government has announced certain measures which include the following:

1.1 Cashflow & Cost

1.1.1 Quick payouts under Singapore’s Jobs Support Scheme and Wage Credit Scheme, which will flow SGD 16.2 billion into businesses by October 2020.

Under the Jobs Support Scheme, for the month of April 2020, all firms will receive a wage subsidy of 75% of gross monthly wages, for the first SGD 4,600 of wages paid in April 2020 for each local employee. 

1.1.2 Employers will not be required to pay foreign worker levy due in April 2020.

In addition, the government will pay a foreign worker levy rebate of SGD 750 for each S Pass holder’s work permit, based on previous levies paid on 2020.

1.1.3 Enhancing rental waivers for tenants: 

  • three (3) months’ rental waiver for stallholders in hawker centres managed by the National Environment Agency (NEA) or NEA-appointed operators
  • two (2) months’ rental waiver for eligible commercial tenants of Government agencies
  • 0.5 months’ rental waiver for all other non-residential tenants of Government agencies.  

1.1.4 Freezing all government fees and charges by one (1) year, from 1 April 2020 to 31 March 2021.

1.2 Credit

1.2.1 Enterprise Financing Scheme (EFS): 

  • maximum loan quantum of EFS-Trade Loan increased from SGD 5 million to SGD 10 million; and Government’s risk-share raised to 80%
  • maximum loan quantum of EFS-SME Working Capital Loan increased from SGD 0.6 million to SGD 1 million. 

1.2.2 Loan Insurance Scheme (LIS):

  • increasing subsidies to businesses for loan insurance premiums from 50% to 80%.

1.2.3 Temporary Bridging Loan Programme (TBLP):

  • expanded from enterprises in tourism sector to cover all sectors
  • maximum supported loan raised from SGD 1 million to SGD 5 million.

1.2.4 Government’s risk-share raised to 90% for loans initiated from 8 April 2020 until 31 March 2021. 

1.2.5 Deferment of capital payments for one (1) year on EFS-Working Capital Loan and TBLP Loans if requested by businesses, subject to assessment by participating financial institutions.

1.2.6 Ability for SMEs to defer principal payments on their secured term loans till the end of 2020. More than SGD 40 billion of SMEs’ existing loans are likely to qualify for this relief.

1.3 Sector-Based Support

1.3.1 Aviation Sector 

  • over SGD 400 million on enhanced Jobs Support Scheme to help businesses whose activities are based principally in the aviation sector to retain their local workers. For every local worker in employment, there will be a provision of a 75% wage offset for the first SGD 4,600 in monthly wages of local workers
  • SGD 350 million enhanced aviation support package to fund measures such as rebates on landing and parking charges, and rental relief for airlines, ground handlers and cargo agents. This will also allow Singapore to retain a minimum level of connectivity to the world even during the pandemic, which is critical to enable overseas Singaporeans to return home and keep supply lines for essential goods open.

1.3.2 Tourism Sector

  • enhanced Jobs Support Scheme for licensed hotels, travel agencies, tourist attractions, cruise terminals and operators, and purpose-built MICE venue operators, to offset a total of 75% of the first SGD 4,600 of monthly wages.

1.3.3 Food Services Sector

  • enhanced Jobs Support Scheme for firms in the food and beverage industry – 50% wage offset for the first SGD 4,600 in monthly wages of local workers.

1.3.4 Land Transport Sector 

  • point-to-point support package to be extended and enhanced for taxis and private-hire cars. This will cost the Government another SGD 95 million
  • Special Relief Fund payments of SGD 300 per vehicle (taxis and private-hire cars) per month until end-September 2020 
  • private bus owners will be provided with a one (1) year road tax rebate and a six (6) month waiver of parking charges at government-managed parking facilities. This will cost the Government SGD 23 million.

1.3.5 Maritime Sector

  • Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore to introduce 50% concession on port dues for passenger vessels from 1 March 2020 to 31 December 2020, on top of any existing concessions
  • additional 35% rebates on counter rental and overnight berthing for regional ferry operators
  • grant of 100% waiver of public licence fees for passenger terminal operators

1.3.6 Arts and Culture

  • SGD 55 million support package to save jobs and support upskilling and digitalisation of the sector.   

2. Which medium-to long-term stabilisation measures are in place in your jurisdiction?

In addition to the measures referred to in (1) above, a sum of SGD 20 billion of loan capital has been set aside help to support good companies with strong capabilities, and catalyse private sector loan capital. As the situation is fluid, these funds will be used to provide help where credit needs are more acute.

Banks and finance companies may also apply for low-cost funding through a new Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) Singapore Dollar facility, for new loans granted under the EFS-SME Working Capital Loan and TBLP. If they do so, they must commit to pass on the savings to their borrowers.

The MAS is concurrently working with banks and insurers to see how best to help businesses and individuals facing cash flow challenges with their loan obligations and insurance premium payments, with details of these measures to be announced in due course.

The Government has also enhanced the SMEs Go Digital Programme, the Productivity Solutions Grant (PSG) and the Enterprise Development Grant (EDG) until December 2020, in the following ways: 

  • SMEs Go Digital Programme will provide support for more digital solutions, from basic remote working tools, to more advanced systems
  • maximum support levels for PSG and EDG raised to 80% and 90% respectively to spur transformation
  • enhanced support for skills upgrading:
    • course fee subsidies will be extended to the arts and culture and land transport sectors from 1 April 2020. This is on top of enhanced training support for the aviation, tourism, food services and retail trade sectors previously announced at the Unity Budget.
    • 90% absentee payroll rates will be extended to all employers, to provide additional cash flow relief when they send their workers for training, from 1 May 2020
    • the duration of the enhancements will also be extended to cover eligible courses starting before 1 January 2021.

 SGD 90 million has also been set aside to help the tourism industry rebound strongly, when the time is right. 

3. Which measures (Guarantees, Loans, Equity Injections, etc.) are available?

See items (1) and (2) above. 

4. Have these mid- to long-term stabilisation measures already been notified with EU or other antitrust bodies?

Other

Comments

Not applicable.

5. Which prerequisites are necessary to qualify for a programme?

See item (1) above.

To qualify for EFS, an entity needs to:

  • be a business entity that is registered and physically present in Singapore
  • have at least 30% local equity held directly or indirectly by Singaporean(s) and/or Singapore Permanent Resident(s) (PRs), determined by the ultimate individual ownership, and
  • have a Maximum Borrower Group revenue cap of  SGD 500 million for all companies.

With respect to “SME” and “SME Working Capital”, SMEs refer to small- to medium-sized enterprises with a group revenue of SGD 100 million or maximum employment of 200 employees.

To qualify for the TBLP, an entity needs to:

  • be a business entity that is registered and physically present in Singapore, and
  • have at least 30% local equity held directly or indirectly by Singaporean(s) and/or Singapore PR(s), determined by the ultimate individual ownership.

To qualify for the LIS, an entity needs to:

  • be a business entity that is registered and physically present in Singapore
  • have at least 30% local equity held directly or indirectly by Singaporean(s) and/or Singapore PR(s), determined by the ultimate individual ownership, and
  • have a group revenue of up to SGD 100 million or maximum employment of 200 employees.

6. Are there any major reasons that may inhibit an applicant from successfully applying for a stabilisation measure?

Other.

Comments

Application for the TBLP loan and LIS is subject to the participating financial institution’s assessment. 

7. In an international context, are subsidiaries and branches of foreign parent/holding companies eligible to apply? For EU-States: Also for non-EU-third countries?

Yes.

Please specify.

Yes, provided that the subsidiary / branch qualifies under the relevant criteria.

8. Do your country’s stabilisation schemes foresee restrictions on use of cash/other restrictions?

No.

Comments

Not at the present time. 

9. How are insolvency application deadlines handled in times of Corona?

The COVID-19 (Temporary Measures) Act 2020 was passed in Parliament on 7 April 2020, to provide temporary and targeted protection for businesses unable to fulfill certain contractual obligations because of COVID-19. The measures will, at first instance, be in place for six (6) months from the commencement of the Act.

For businesses, the monetary threshold for insolvency has been temporarily increased from SGD 10,000 to SGD 100,000 (for companies/partnerships). The statutory period  in which a business must satisfy a statutory demand, or for the setting aside of statutory demands from creditors, will also be temporarily lengthened from 21 days to six (6) months. 

10. How far have local insolvency/restructuring laws been changed/eased which might have an impact on international businesses?

In addition to the temporary increases in the monetary thresholds and time limits for insolvency, the Act (as defined above) also provides temporary relief for a contracting party’s inability to perform contractual obligations, if the inability is to a material extent caused by a COVID-19 event. 

Under the Act, a contracting party is prohibited from taking the following actions (in addition to other legal actions), against a non-performing party, or such non-performing party’s guarantor or surety:

  • commencing an action in court;
  • making an application for winding up;
  • making an application for a meeting of creditors to be summoned to approve a compromise or arrangement;
  • making an application for a judicial management order; or
  • appointing a receiver or manager over any property or undertaking of such non-performing party, or of such non-performing party’s guarantor or surety.

There are also specific provisions in the Act that apply to obligations arising from construction or supply contracts, such as prohibitions on calling and/or extending a performance bond, imposing liquidated damages under the contract, and defences for breach of contract. These temporary measures will have an impact on the solvency state of companies who may otherwise have to pay damages or risk having their assets forfeited. 

The temporary measures are intended to cover relevant contractual obligations that are to be performed on or after 1 February 2020, for contracts that were entered into or renewed before 25 March 2020. 

The Act also provides for the appointment of a Body of Assessors to resolve disputes arising from the application of the Act. They will decide if the inability to perform contractual obligations was due to COVID-19 and will have powers to grant relief that is just and equitable in the circumstances.

Directors will also be temporarily relieved from their obligations to prevent their companies from trading while insolvent if the debts are incurred in the company’s ordinary course of business. However, Directors remain criminally liable if the debts are incurred fraudulently.

No.

Comments

Not at this stage. However, further updates may be provided in due course when more details are made available.

Apart from the temporary measures brought about by the Act (as set out in 2.13 and 2.14 above), Singapore’s insolvency framework has not been altered in light of the COVID-19 crisis.

However, there are other existing statutory corporate rescue measures available to entities facing financial difficulties in Singapore as alternatives to commencing winding up. These are the scheme of arrangement and judicial management processes. 

  • The scheme of arrangement mechanism operates as an agreement between a company and its creditors, under which a scheme manager restructures the company’s debts. The arrangement is subject to court supervision and is binding on all creditors if approved.
  • Judicial management is a method of debt restructuring where an independent judicial manager is appointed to manage the affairs of a company. 
  • Singapore has also adopted the UNCITRAL Model Law on Cross-border Insolvency Law which has eased the recognition of foreign insolvency proceedings and rehabilitation proceedings in Singapore.
Toby Grainger
Toby Grainger
Managing Partner
Singapore