Insolvency, Restructuring and Dissolution Bill – Speech by Dennis Tan

(Delivered in Parliament on 1 October 2018)

Mr Speaker, I support the consolidation into one single piece of legislation existing separate statutes pertaining to personal and corporate insolvency laws and the laws to debt restructuring. I hope this will allow a more unified approach to be taken by the courts, the Insolvency and Public Trustee’s Office and the insolvency practitioners.

While much of the provisions in this colossal omnibus Bill are taken from existing provisions in the Companies Act and the Bankruptcy Act, the Bill also introduces some new regulations.
In particular, the Bill will introduce a new regulatory regime for insolvency practitioners acting as officeholders in insolvency and restructuring proceedings. This follows the practice in other countries such as UK and Australia.

I have a few questions regarding this new regulatory regime. One, besides having the right qualifications such as being a solicitor, public or chartered accountant (which are provided in clause 50) and besides the conditions stated in clause 56 (b) to (l), what are the conditions which the Government intends to impose on all insolvency practitioners?
I would also like to ask the SMS, whether in the past, say, 10 years, there has been instances of misconduct by any insolvency practitioner or where any such practitioner has committed any acts which would have run foul of the provisions under the new regulatory regime if this had been introduced earlier. Perhaps the SMS can elaborate on what were the acts and or misconduct complained of.

Next, I would like to ask the SMS, with the new regulatory regime, what are the expected costs of compliance by practitioners and will that lead to increased business costs for companies involved in insolvency proceedings one way or other?

Mr Speaker, I understand that the Bill today represents the final part of a three-phase process to implement the recommendations from the Insolvency Law Review Committee as well as the Committee to Strengthen Singapore as an international Centre for Debt Restructuring. In 2015, as part of the first phase of this process, the Bankruptcy Act was amended to create a more rehabilitative discharge framework for bankrupts. Provisions of the existing Bankruptcy Act have now been incorporated into this Bill. I would like to ask the SMS, whether he can provide any statistics for, say the last 3 years, to show that the intentions and objectives behind the more rehabilitative discharge framework have been achieved or that we are well underway to achieving such objectives?

Mr Speaker, according to data I have found on Minlaw website for the number of bankruptcy applications for the past 2 years after the new bankruptcy threshold was increased from $10,000 to $15,000, the number dipped in the first year and then rose again. Has the Government conducted any studies to find out the reasons behind the increase? What is the expected trend in the next 2-3 years?

Finally, I would like to ask the Minister for an update of Singapore’s development as an international debt restructuring centre so far. How much success have we had in terms of attracting regional or international restructuring work?