SMEs call for more government help ahead of Budget 2017

Skyline of Central Business District after office hours on March 24, 2016.
Skyline of Central Business District after office hours on March 24, 2016. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - The cost of doing business remains a top concern among bosses of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) here. But in a twist, a recent survey by the SBF showed that many firms here feel challenged by the high amount of compliance and regulatory costs, more so than manpower costs - a traditional bugbear for SMEs.

The Singapore Business Federation (SBF)'s committee on SMEs is urging the Government to study, review and streamline compliance and regulatory-related costs for firms here. For a start, the focus should fall on the advanced manufacturing and food services sectors, the committee said in recommendations released on Wednesday (Jan 4).

The SME Committee also urged the Government to hold back any planned increases in foreign worker levies across all sectors for 36 months, and repeated its call for government landlords to take the lead in adopting a fair tenancy framework to give rentors some relief, among other things.

These suggestions were part of 21 recommendations the SBF's SME Committee is making to the Government ahead of Budget 2017.

It also noted that to stay competitive in an era of growth that is centred on innovation and technology, Singapore needs to focus on creating new clusters of globally competitive companies.

Such clusters of innovative companies can be an important "third growth engine" for Singapore alongside its traditional reliance on multinational corporations and Government-linked companies.

To make Singapore a more conducive place to nurture globally competitive companies, the SME committee has urged the Government to commission a study to assess the feasibility of establishing a private bourse to make it easier for innovative, high-risk companies to raise capital here. This would be akin to China's New Third Board, an over-the-counter market for investors who can take on riskier investments, said committee chairman Lawrence Leow.