askST: What benefits did Budget 2016 offer entrepreneurs and single women?

Reader Sreyashi Sen wrote to askST after the Budget 2016 was announced.

She said, as a Singaporean woman entrepreneur and a single woman, she wanted to know what are the benefits that entrepreneurs can look forward to in this budget, and if there are any special funding schemes or special grants for entrepreneurs.

She added: "Are there any special mandates, elements for women entrepreneurs?" She also wanted to know if the Budget has any measures for single women above 35 years old.

Business correspondent Chong Koh Ping answers the questions.

The Budget measures for businesses are classified in five broad categories, namely short term measures, helping companies to transform, helping the industries to transform, encouraging innovation and supporting workers in adapting to change.

Short term measures:

1) The corporate income tax rebate will also be raised from 30 per cent of tax payable to 50 per cent of tax payable, with a cap of $20,000 rebate each year for the year of assessment 2016 and 2017. This was a move targeted at small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

2) The Special Employment Credit (SEC) scheme, which provides wage offsets to employers hiring older workers and people with disabilities, will be modified and extended for three years, to the end of 2019. This will provide employers with a wage offset for workers aged 55 and above, earning up to $4,000 a month.

3) A new SME Working Capital Loan scheme for loans up to $300,000 per SME is established. The Government will share 50 per cent of the default risk of these loans with the banks, to encourage lending to SMEs. This will be available for three years, starting from 2016.

4) Another $15 million a year will go towards revitalising and upgrading shops in the heartland.

5) Foreign worker levy increases for work permit holders in the marine and process sectors will be deferred for one year. Manufacturing work permit levies will also remain unchanged for another year, as announced in last year's Budget.

Helping companies to transform:

1) A Business Grants Portal will be launched in the fourth quarter of this year to help companies access grants from various agencies more easily. The portal will organise the grants along core business needs of i) capability building, ii) training and iii) international expansion. The portal will start with grants from IE Singapore, SPRING, Singapore Tourism Board and Design Singapore and progressively include grants from other government agencies.

2) A new $400 million Automation Support Package will be introduced for an initial period of three years to help companies start or scale up their automation projects. The Government will provide grants of up to half of the project costs, capped at $1 million per project. There will be a new 100 per cent investment allowance for automation equipment, in addition to the existing capital allowance. The Government will raise its risk-share with banks from 50 per cent to 70 per cent, making it easier for SMEs to borrow money to upgrade and buy new equipment.

3) The SME Mezzanine Growth Fund will be expanded from its current $100 million to $150 million. The mergers and acquisitions allowance will be granted to deals with a value of up to $40 million, up from $20 million now.

Together with the enhancement of the M&A scheme last year, to raise the tax allowance to 25 per cent of the value of a deal, companies will be able to enjoy up to $10 million of M&A tax allowances each year.

The scheme granting non-taxation of companies' gains on disposal of their equity investments is also extended to May 31, 2022.

4) The Double Tax Deduction for Internationalisation scheme - which covers expenses for activities such as overseas business development and investment study trips -will be extended to March 31, 2020.

Helping the industries to transform:

1) A National Trade Platform (NTP), costing more than $100 million, will be set up to enable more sharing of integrated electronic trade data between businesses and the Government. This one-stop trade information management system will be particularly useful to firms in the logistics and trade finance sectors.

2) The Government will set aside more than $450 million over the next three years under the National Robotics Programme to help companies in sectors such as healthcare, construction, manufacturing and logistics to adopt robotics technology.

3) A new Local Enterprise and Association Development-Plus (LEAD-Plus) programme will be implemented to help Trade Associations and Chambers (TACs) strengthen their outreach. Up to $30 million will be set aside over the next five years to support TACs in attracting talent, developing their capabilities, and strengthening their processes and services.

Encouraging innovation:

1) The Government will provide a top-up of $1.5 billion to the National Research Fund this year for industry-research collaborations and to deepen industry capabilities in innovation and research and development.

2) A new company called SG-Innovate will be set up in order to match budding entrepreneurs with mentors, introduce them to venture capital firms, help them to access talent in research institutes, and open up new markets.

3)A new industrial park called Jurong Innovation District - comprising Nanyang Technological University, CleanTech Park and the surrounding region - will developed. It will be Singapore's largest living lab for the testing and development of new technologies, including self-driving vehicles, robots and other smart solutions. The first phase is slated for completion around 2022.

Supporting workers in adapting to change:

1) For professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMETs) affected by retrenchments, the Government will support their re-employment in the form of expanded wage credit schemes for the employers through the Adapt and Grow initiative.

2) A new skills development and job placement hub for the information and communications technology sector, dubbed the "TechSkills Accelerator" help employers and trade associations in the sector offer training and provide job-matching services.

There are no measures specifically targeted at businesses owned by women. All the measures announced are not gender-biased.

As for the Budget measures for single women, aged 35 and above, it depends if they are under any other categories, such as whether they are earning low incomes, disabled, or are senior citizens. There are separate Budget measures to help these vulnerable groups in society.

More askST stories here.

More stories on Budget 2016 here.