Group under Future Economy committee to study support for SMEs: Heng Swee Keat

Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat disclosed that there will be a sixth sub-group with a focus on supporting Singapore's small and medium enterprises for the Committee on the Future Economy.
Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat disclosed that there will be a sixth sub-group with a focus on supporting Singapore's small and medium enterprises for the Committee on the Future Economy. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

SINGAPORE - The Committee on the Future Economy has a group with a focus on supporting Singapore's small and medium enterprises, Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat disclosed on Tuesday (April 26).

The group is part of the Future Corporate Capabilities and Innovation sub-committee and is headed by Senior Minister of State for Finance, Ms Sim Ann, and president of the Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Mr Thomas Chua, said Mr Heng.

The sub-committee is one of five under the Committee on the Future Economy (CFE), which aims to set the direction for Singapore's future economic development.

It will study how to promote greater innovation in SMEs, their needs in different sectors and how to help them scale up and internationalise, he added.

Mr Heng made the disclosure at the Lianhe Zaobao Singapore Budget 2016 Business Forum.

He spoke in Mandarin about how SMEs here can compete in a fast-changing economy in a panel discussion with Mr Chua and Mr Kurt Wee, president of the Association of Small and Medium Enterprises, that was moderated by Lianhe Zaobao editor Mr Goh Sin Teck.

Mr Heng urged companies to co-operate to internationalise, citing his experience meeting Wenzhou's businessmen who manufacture firelighters.

He said in Mandarin: "I was very impressed and asked them how their ministry of trade had managed to bring them together. But to my surprise, they said they had banded together on their own so that it would be convenient for clients to see all their products without having to visit them one by one."

"I asked them how they felt about working with their competitors, but they said that it is only with competition and co-operation that we can improve," he added.

Close to 300 participants, mainly from SMEs, attended the forum which included talks by experts on how SMEs can navigate a difficult business environment.

Mr Heng also emphasised to reporters that it was important not to take a one-size-fits-all approach in helping SMEs.

"In my interactions with SMEs, I find there are many different needs, so we cannot take a one size fits all approach," he said. "Some sectors are looking at how they can internationalise, some are looking at how they can better improve productivity. We need to be able to look at these needs in greater detail, and find better ways of helping SMEs.

"We cannot do it alone as the government, we have to do it with businesses and with chambers and business associations. I very much encourage our SMEs to come together to look at how they can cooperate and compete."