COVID-19: Landlords should not 'stinge' on retailers amid downturn - Chan Chun Sing

Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing speaking at the Multi-Ministry press conference on Monday (27 January). (PHOTO: Dhany Osman / Yahoo News Singapore)
Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing speaking at the Multi-Ministry press conference on Monday (27 January). (PHOTO: Dhany Osman / Yahoo News Singapore)

SINGAPORE — The authorities are aware of a dispute between certain landlords and retailers over passing on the benefits of a property tax rebate and are working hard to arbitrate on the matter, said Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing on Tuesday (3 March).

“It will be very short-sighted for landlords to try to stinge and save a bit here and there, instead of passing on some of the benefits to the tenants,” said Chan during his ministry’s Committee of Supply (COS) debate.

“I think every one of us will have long memories of who are those who have come forward to do their part for their business partner in this difficult moment, and who are those that have taken a very short-term perspective to this.”

Chan was responding to a supplementary question by Holland-Bukit Timah Member of Parliament Liang Eng Hwa, who alluded to reports that some landlords were failing to pass on the benefits of a 15 per cent property tax rebate announced by Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat in his Budget speech. Liang asked if the government would be taking any measures on the matter.

‘Deeply disappointed’ in the landlords

The rebate is part of a $4 billion package to help businesses affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. Heng had urged landlords to pass on the savings to tenants by reducing rentals.

However, Today reported on Monday that the Restaurant Association of Singapore (RAS) said several big landlords have failed to follow through on their public promises to offer rental rebates and financial relief to their tenants.

Following Heng’s speech, mall developers such as CapitaLand, Frasers Property and UOL had publicly said that they would pass on the savings of the rebate to their tenants. But RAS noted that only Jewel Changi, Changi Airport Group, and government agencies JTC and NParks, have written notices on rental rebates to their tenants.

RAS added that CapitaLand had promised to offer a 50 per cent rental rebate to RAS. However, its checks showed that F&B tenants operating in CapitaLand’s urban malls received only a 10 per cent rebate, while those at Clarke Quay got 15 per cent.

“For CapitaLand’s suburban malls, which form the bulk of its portfolio of shopping malls, no rental rebates have been granted,” said RAS executive director Edwin Fong, who added that RAS is “deeply disappointed” in the landlords.

Enterprise Singapore in close consultation

Chan told the House that Enterprise Singapore (ESG) is in close consultation with both RAS and Singapore Retailer Association to help them work with the major landlords. Noting that there has been an “entire spectrum of responses” to the government’s aid package, Chan said, “I would like to urge all the major landlords to do our part together, to help each other to get through this difficult moment.”

He added, “At the same time, I must say that for the tenants who are affected, they are not all affected equally. And we should try to give a bit more help to those that are more affected by the downturn caused by the COVID-19. And if we can do this all together, we will go past this stronger together.”

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