Budget 2016 - Shaping our future together: Transforming the economy

New platform to boost business-govt data sharing

One-stop trade-info management system to provide vital support to firms, help cut costs and streamline processes

A National Trade Platform (NTP), costing more than $100 million, is to be set up to enable more sharing of integrated electronic trade data between businesses and the Government.

The platform will provide vital support to firms, particularly those in the logistics and trade finance sectors, as well as help cut costs and streamline various processes.

This was among the good news Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat delivered to companies yesterday, in a slew of initiatives aimed at spurring industry-level transformation.

He stressed that this type of transformation works best if firms partner one another or if trade associations lead the effort, because they know their needs best. "By doing it together, firms achieve scale, drive down cost, incentivise service providers to step forward, and expand mindshare."

The one-stop trade-information management system will be "especially helpful" for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in cutting costs and streamlining processes, Mr Heng said.

Firms will only have to provide trade information once and authorise its use by logistics providers and business partners, he noted.

The information can also be used for Customs and other trade regulatory approvals.

  • $100 million

    More than $100 million to develop National Trade Platform

ADVANTAGES

By doing it together, firms achieve scale, drive down cost, incentivise service providers to step forward, and expand mindshare.

MR HENG SWEE KEAT, saying that industry-level transformation works best if firms partner one another or if trade associations lead the effort.

Plans for the new platform had been announced in May last year, when the Government said it would combine the TradeNet, TradeXchange and Customs back-end systems into one system in the hope of boosting national productivity and advancing the country's competitiveness through a digitalised and integrated supply chain.

The system will eventually replace TradeNet, the platform for making Customs declarations, and TradeXchange, which facilitates data exchange within the trade and logistics community.

The NTP is "not just an IT system", said Mr Heng.

It will be developed as an open innovation platform, which means other service providers can develop value-added services and apps in areas such as operations, visibility and trade finance.

All in all, the platform has "the potential to bring over $600 million worth of man-hour savings each year for our firms", said Mr Heng.

Equally key to driving change at the industry level are trade associations and chambers (TACs), he said - which is why the Government is setting aside up to $30 million over the next five years to help such organisations beef up their outreach efforts.

"TACs have intimate knowledge of the needs and potential of their specific sectors," he noted. "They are well placed to reach out to many firms, especially SMEs."

The existing Local Enterprise and Association Development (Lead) initiative will be extended through a new Lead-Plus programme, which is aimed at providing TACs with "wider funding support" to attract talent, develop capabilities and strengthen their processes and services, said Mr Heng.

Under the programme, up to 20 public officers will be seconded to interested TACs to forge closer partnerships and enable the public officers to better understand the needs of local enterprises.

Additionally, to encourage TACs to take the lead in developing industrywide solutions for common challenges, enterprise development agency Spring Singapore will partner TACs to drive 30 such projects over the next three years to reach out to more than 3,000 SMEs, said Mr Heng.

Industry expert Shubhendu Misra, a partner at Ernst & Young Solutions, believes the NTP is "a good step to providing an integrated platform in terms of facilitating trade", and that it will benefit any SME that undertakes import or export activity.

"It will help stakeholders save time and effort, which also translates to enhanced productivity."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 25, 2016, with the headline 'New platform to boost business-govt data sharing'. Print Edition | Subscribe