How are SMEs are affected by the haze?


It has been about a month and the haze doesn’t seem to be relenting. The smog is expected to last till November, intensified by the extreme dry weather from the El Nino phenomenon.

While some Indonesian companies are getting exceedingly rich from the burning, others are not having an easy time, especially the small and medium business.

Cafes, sports, beaches… mostly anything that has to do with outdoor activity has now come grinding to a halt.

Sandy Snakenberg is a skating and fitness instructor and his classes has seen a 50% dip in business. “My God, during the holidays East Coast Park was a ghost town!” remarked Sandy with bewilderment.


“The last two days we’ve got clean air and that’s just because the wind directions have changed…Indonesia did not give us two days of clean air. In the first place, go to their cities..pollution there is one of the worst in the world!” His comments are directed at Indonesian Vice-President Jusuf’s Kalla’s amusing remarks about how Singapore should thank them for 11 months of fresh air.

Since business has dropped significantly, I asked Sandy what the G could do in this situation.

“Their hands are tied up. It’s up to Indonesia to stop the burning and to stop the pollution”.


Sandy’s main form of transportation is the bicycle and he had to hang these up for the meantime.


F&B businesses in East Coast Park have had a very rough month.

“The haze had caused a 40% drop in sales. We’re hoping that the government could help us small businesses in this time of need” said Didi Gan, proprietor of dessert cafe Pick Me Up.



Didi is running promotions to continue to attract people to their air-conditioned cafe and had been reducing opening hours to slash operating costs. “We hope the National Parks Board, as our tenant would consider lowering rental rates temporarily and to consider not charging for the carparks at this point in time… there’s hardly anyone here anyway”.

Over in Kranji, agritainment companies are also experiencing difficulties. One such company is Gardenasia, which operates a bistro, conducts outdoor corporate training activities and a landscaping company.

When the haze crept into the 300psi hazardous levels last week, their bistro had to shut for dinner.


“We’re shut (temporarily at 300psi) for both the customer’s health and as well as our staff”, said Kenny Eng, director of Gardenasia Pte Ltd.  “Here in the countryside, our business is subject to the weather, we can only wait and see and hope that the haze does not last for too long”.


Not everyone working outdoors is suffering though.

Edmund Sim runs a photography studio and specialises in wedding photography. He doesn’t observe a dip in business. “Some photographers are getting creative and using the N95 masks as part of the props. Others are making use of the haze..i mean, it’s not everyday that you get foggy effects such as this!” says Edmund. “I think we all should be resilient. If it’s bothering you, stop your work and stay home. I don’t think employers will fault you for that”.


If you run an outdoor business and have been affected, you might want to have a look at this 2008 Tripartite Guidelines on Managing Excess Manpower advisory.

This was released during the 2008 financial crisis, when companies island-wide experienced difficulty in holding on to manpower. Although the haze is not as financially serious as the recession, some of the principals can be put to use. This includes:

  • Sending workers for training during periods of downtime;
  • Redeploying workers to alternative areas of work within a company;
  • Implementing a shorter work week, temporary lay-off or flexible work schedule or other flexible work arrangements; and
  • Using a flexible wage system to adjust wage costs, including freezing or reducing wages.

Whatever it takes, keep workers employed and ride out the turbulence together.

Just like the rest of the region, we pray and hope the rains will come soon and extinguish the source of the haze: the burning forests in Indonesia, sparked by irresponsible people.




About the author

Benjamin Chiang

Benjamin Chiang is an enthusiast of good advertising, deep thinking, labour issues and chocolate. He writes also at and occasionally on Yahoo!

The views expressed are his own.

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