THE latest figures from the Insolvency and Public Trustee's Office show bankruptcy petitions and orders in the first quarter of this year were little changed from Q1 last year.
While the 751 individual bankruptcy petitions filed in Q1 this year were about 25 per cent higher than the 599 petitions filed in the previous quarter, their number was virtually the same as the 754 petitions filed in Q1 2008.
Similarly, while the 579 individual bankruptcy orders in Q1 this year were about 15.3 per cent higher than the number in Q4 2008, they were marginally lower than the 590 orders in Q1 2008.
Thirty-seven corporate insolvency petitions were filed in Q1 this year, about 14 per cent fewer than the 43 in the preceding quarter but about the same as 36 in Q1 2008.
Analysts BT spoke to generally agreed that the figures suggest government measures such as the Jobs Credit Scheme are helping companies stay solvent.
Themin Suwardy, associate dean of the School of Accountancy at Singapore Management University, said the 'pre-emptive strike by the government to subsidise wages, reduce rental/property tax and other initiatives have perhaps softened the blow'.
Barclays economist Leong Wai Ho said another important factor is that, unlike at the height of the share and property bubble in 1997, individuals 'entered this crisis with relatively lower levels of leverage'.
However, some observers say the number of bankruptcies could increase, as bankruptcy is seen as a lagging economic indicator.
Tee Wey Lih, associate director at Stone Forest Corporate Advisory, said: 'From the time the economy goes into recession, it usually takes about nine months to a year before we see a significant increase in the number of petitions for winding-up orders.'
And with exports on the decline and revenues 'plunging', Assoc Prof Suwardy said companies are going to be under severe pressure 'even if they shave 20 per cent off their costs'.