After the Budget was announced on 18 Feb, a private bus company boss got in touch with me. He spoke on behalf of some of his business partners, concerned that the COVID-19 outbreak was bleeding their businesses with the cancellation of many local and Malaysian trips. Quite a number of their bus drivers were foreigners so the Budget did not really assist them directly as there was no reduction in the foreign worker levy, and the other measures were generally ineffective in addressing current problems. In my Budget speech, I asked the Government to look into a conditional reduction of the foreign worker levy for businesses.
As I made more enquiries into this segment of workers, I got to know there are a number of Singaporean private hire bus drivers who are sole proprietors operating 13-seater mini-buses, for example. They do not benefit from schemes that support other transport workers like Grab drivers etc. announced by the Government during Budget 2020 as part of the first relief package.
Over the course of the Committee of Supply debates last week, I spoke to PAP MP Mr Melvin Yong who is the Executive Secretary to the National Transport Workers Union. We were in agreement that the private hire bus industry is fragmented into different groups. Sole proprietors who do not have tourist licences, being one common example.
Singapore has many workers whose lives depend on working day-to-day, and are severely affected by the COVID-19 outbreak – our transport workers, taxi and private hire bus drivers, SMRT staff and yet many others are among them. Although we are a small number in Parliament, my WP colleagues and I will play our part and do our best for you.