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‘Irresponsible’ to incite home-based businesses to put pressure on Government to grant exceptions, says Masagos

SINGAPORE — Those who incite home-based food-business operators to pressure the Government into making exceptions for them during the period of tighter containment measures are “irresponsible”, Mr Masagos Zulkifli said on Monday (April 27).

‘Irresponsible’ to incite home-based businesses to put pressure on Government to grant exceptions, says Masagos

While Mr Masagos Zulkifli did not specify who he was criticising, a petition was started on the Change.org website recently calling for the authorities to “revise their approach to handling home-based businesses in light of the pandemic situation”.

SINGAPORE — Those who incite home-based food-business operators to pressure the Government into making exceptions for them during the period of tighter containment measures are “irresponsible”, Mr Masagos Zulkifli said on Monday (April 27).

The Minister for the Environment and Water Resources said that he is alarmed at the development because what this group of people are demanding is not for the greater good.

“They are purportedly fighting for the rights of the entrepreneurs but they're only rubbing more salt into their wounds — because they know the Government cannot make exceptions to any sector affected in the tighter circuit breaker period,” Mr Masagos said.

While he did not specify who he was criticising, a petition was started on the Change.org website recently calling for the authorities to “revise their approach to handling home-based businesses in light of the pandemic situation”.

Titled “Allow Small Home-Based F&B Businesses to Operate with Compliance to Circuit Breaker Rules,” the petition said that small home-based businesses “can and should continue operating with as little impact on the circuit break rules as possible”.

TODAY is trying to contact the people behind the petition for comments.

When the Government announced last Tuesday that the circuit breaker to restrict movement of people and reduce business activities is extended another month to June 1, it said that standalone food-and-beverage (F&B) outlets selling only beverages or snacks, for example, as well as other businesses such as hair salons and barber shops, will have to close their outlets until at least May 4. The mandated closures may be extended until June 1 depending on how much the transmission rates of Covid-19 have gone down.

The matter of home-based businesses started gathering attention late last week when former television actress Ateeqah Mazlan wanted to know whether these businesses were allowed to operate under the new regulations.

The Singaporean then posted a video of herself on social media making calls to the authorities to get an answer. She has since deleted the post, along with her Facebook and Instagram pages.

Following that, on Saturday, four government bodies, namely the Ministry of Trade and Industry, the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources Ministry, the Housing and Development Board and the Urban Redevelopment Authority, issued a joint media statement saying that home-based business operators must meet certain criteria in order to continue operating during this period or face a S$1,000 fine.

These include operating the business only online, and the business owners or workers cannot leave their homes. Their customers or third-party delivery services cannot be at the residences to collect or deliver goods.

Mr Masagos said that he sympathised with everyone affected by the Covid-19 crisis, with many Singaporeans having been displaced and having lost their jobs.

The Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs added: “I also understand how home-based business operators are frustrated at not being able to make the most of the month-long Ramadan and Hari Raya reservations.”

Typically, Ramadan — a month when Muslims practise fasting — is a time when many of these operators sell their products such as homemade food and snacks for the upcoming Hari Raya Puasa celebrations.

Mr Masagos said that those who had incited the home-based business operators to put pressure on the Government to make exceptions for them have not put the safety of the country first in the fight against Covid-19.

“If (these) operators continue their business as usual, they run the risk of being infected or becoming a cluster of Covid-19 cases — more so near Raya, when orders pile up.”

Still, he is heartened to know that there are many home-based business operators who understand that the purpose of the added measures to shut them down temporarily is to significantly reduce the spread of infections in the community.

“If we don’t act now, our country is at risk of an exponential increase in infections. It will happen if we keep interacting and doing business as usual. Then, all the efforts we have made and the pain we endured till now will be wasted,” he said, adding that he hopes the enhanced restrictions can be lifted as soon as infection numbers go down.

Mr Masagos also commended the positive attitude and patience of not just these operators but the religious scholars here.

“Our religious leaders were united in supporting the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis) to close our mosques and then extending the closure for the sake of the safety of our community. It was the right thing to do to prevent community spread of Covid-19.

“This is despite the incomes of our scholars who support this measure being adversely affected. They were clear and not conflicted,” he said.

In a crisis like this, everyone must unite if they want to prevent the community spread of Covid-19, he stressed again.

“This involves adjusting and sacrificing for the sake of all, and not letting personal interests dictate our actions. I'm sure the majority of our home-based business community understand this.”

GOVERNMENT DOES NOT MAKE DECISIONS UNDER PRESSURE

Mr Masagos put it across in no uncertain terms that the Government does not make decisions under pressure, especially when these decisions are harmful to society.

“It is the same decision process in opening or closing our mosques. It is not done under pressure, but based on sound medical advice that our religious scholars defer to.”

Reminding the people to be patient and make necessary adjustments for the sake of the larger good, Mr Masagos said that it is in times of crisis that one will “know who our leaders are”.

“(Leaders) unite people for the larger good and do not exploit our insecurities to divide us for their gains.”

He added: “Let's not let our sacrifices be in vain because of the interests of a few. Being calm and patient is also in the spirit of fasting in Ramadan.”

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Home-based business food circuit breaker Covid-19 coronavirus Masagos Zulkifli

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