Government agencies will support SMEs; long term growth path will be charted: S Iswaran

The government will continue to support small and medium-sized enterprises, said Minister for Trade and Industry S. Iswaran.
The government will continue to support small and medium-sized enterprises, said Minister for Trade and Industry S. Iswaran.PHOTO: IE SINGAPORE

SINGAPORE - Government agencies understand the challenges Singapore's small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are facing in the current economic climate and will continue to support them, Minister for Trade and Industry (Industry) S. Iswaran said on Monday (Feb 08).

Yet while there have been calls for more government help for businesses, today's situation cannot be compared with the 2008 global financial crisis which threatened to bring down our economy, he said.

"Even as we deal with short term challenges, it is crucial that we press on with our longer term economic restructuring to become more innovative, productive and manpower lean."

Mr Iswaran was speaking at the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry's (SCCCI) Chinese New Year gathering.

The Committee on the Future Economy, of which Mr Iswaran is deputy chairman, will consult closely with the business community to chart the longer-term course for Singapore's growth.

"A few months ago, I had a fruitful dialogue with the SCCCI leaders who provided useful feedback which our agencies are working on," he noted.

The government will also continue helping SMEs internationalise and innovate, Mr Iswaran added.

Over the past year, IE Singapore has helped nearly 4,500 companies in internationalisation projects through its various financial assistance schemes.

An SME Centre set up in Shanghai by SCCCI and IE Singapore has to date helped over 5,000 SMEs do business in China.

Mr Iswaran also acknowledged SCCCI's role in helping local enterprises.

For instance, the SME Centre@SCCCI and its satellite centre at Central CDC provide business advice to over 300 SMEs monthly.

SCCCI also actively promotes closer consultation between industry and Government. Just over the past year, it has organised 18 dialogue sessions between its Trade Association members and government agencies to address business challenges including industry land-use, compliance costs and rentals.

SCCCI also recently submitted a comprehensive Pre-Budget 2016 Survey Report with recommendations for the Government to consider. One of these recommendations is on simplifying paperwork for business grants and to expedite grant disbursement processes, which government agencies have been working on, Mr Iswaran said.

Separately, SCCCI President Thomas Chua noted that this year's activities by the chamber are in response to the needs of businesses, especially in these more difficult times.

These will include a two-day conference and expo focusing on innovation and technology, and the launching of an e-learning portal which will teach members how to grow their family businesses, amongst other topics.

SCCCI is also planning for the move to new premises at the Trade Association Hub at Jurong Town Hall next year.

The chamber marks its 110th year this year.

"We want to take this opportunity to increase our support for members with activities to not just celebrate, but address their needs and be in line with Government initiatives; to encourage our SMEs and help them grow," Mr Chua told reporters.