Back in March, when Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat unveiled a $48.4 billion Supplementary Budget of support measures for businesses, workers and families in Parliament, he said: “In economic terms alone, this will likely be the worst economic contraction since independence.”
That’s right, Singaporeans, brace yourselves for an impending economic recession.
Covid-19 has transformed the Singapore economy in a matter of weeks – after the coronavirus brought businesses to a slowdown and some even to a grinding halt. While we’re now in the middle of the extended circuit breaker, eateries are only doing pick-ups or deliveries. Non-essential services have stopped operating, and small local businesses are at risk of closing for good.
Even McDonald’s had to suspend all restaurant operations temporarily when seven of its employees tested positive for Covid-19 (you’ll be glad to know operations have resumed on 11 May).
Industries such as business tourism have also been seriously affected by the pandemic and several companies forced to lay off many of its staff.
Covid-19 hits everyone differently, but no one will be spared. For lower income groups or those working in the gig economy, it may be especially hard on them.
So for us who may be in better circumstances, consider extending a financial helping hand to lift those who may be stumbling in these gloomy times.
Here are five ways to help restart the economy with kindness, when we eventually return to our “normal” lives.
Support local and home-based businesses
The online furore on the regulations surrounding home-based businesses has unveiled the plight of many small-scale entrepreneurs who rely on these artisanal businesses for a livelihood. Many are housewives or single mothers who rely on this sole source of income to support their families’ needs. Larger restaurants and bigger bakeries may have deeper pockets to tide through this period to gradually resume normal operations again, so let’s keep an eye out for these family businesses by purchasing items from them.
For Sery Rahim, a single mom with four children – one of whom has special needs – running Violet Frost selling cakes and pastries is a full-time job. Other home bakers include Juliana Ramli who runs Crumbs N Batter to support her son’s medical fees.
Tip your taxi and private-hire drivers
Even before the circuit breaker, taxi drivers and private-hire drivers were seeing a dip in their earnings. Now even more so, because nobody is going out anymore, they can barely make ends meet. So if you do have to go out now, consider leaving a gratuity to brighten their day. And when restrictions are lifted and more people head out, we can continue to help these frontline heroes earn back some of their losses by leaving a tip.
Refer the elderly and lower income groups to grants they may not know about
The elderly and people from lower income groups may be falling through the cracks of society as information may not be readily accessible to them. We can do our part as neighbours by sharing with them the grants that are available to help them tide through this recession, and even go one step further to help them apply for the relevant grants.
Reinvent your business
We are all encouraged to continue working from home even when the circuit breaker is lifted on June 1. If you lead a team, consider making telecommuting or working from home a permanent option for your team members. By doing so, you can help employees cut on commuting costs, meal expenses, and even reduce Singapore’s carbon footprint from fewer trips on the road. Not only that, families can spend more time together for better work-life balance and you can help your neighbourhood businesses too!
Big tech companies such as Google and Facebook were the first to take the step for their employees and will continue with a work from home policy for the rest of the year.
With less time spent travelling to the office and more flexibility for employees to work during their most productive hours, there are a lot of benefits to telecommuting if we focus our productivity on work outcomes instead of the hours spent in office.
Donate to charities and social enterprises
If you have extra cash on hand, and want to share the wealth, you can donate to charities such as YWCA’s Sustenance for Families Programme or support social enterprises that help vulnerable communities. The Nail Social is one such business that trains and employs low-income single mothers keen on joining the beauty industry. After being home for so many weeks, who wouldn’t love a freshly-done manicure?
There are many social enterprises you can support who are recognised by The Singapore Centre for Social Enterprise (raiSE) as a BusinessForGood.
In reality, as individuals, we can only do so much to help the economy recover to pre-Covid levels. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. If we continue to show empathy and provide support to our community, even when the worst of the pandemic is over, we will surely be able to prevail over this recession and future crises that may come our way.