Outlook for many SMEs less bright

Most sectors in Singapore are expecting weaker turnover and profits in the next six months, as rising costs and an uncertain economic outlook are weighing on their business.

In the latest SME Index survey conducted by the Singapore Business Federation and DP Info, only firms in the construction and engineering industry said they expect higher turnover and profits in the next six months, as business is being buoyed by upcoming projects, while those in commerce and trading, manufacturing, transport and storage and business services were more downbeat.

Nonetheless, most businesses across all sectors said they were looking to expand cautiously over the period.

In a separate National Business Survey, also conducted by SBF and DP Info, 55 per cent of the 1,006 companies polled said their profit margins have thinned because of tighter foreign worker policies.

In the face of rising costs and manpower shortages, 44 per cent said they will take steps to upgrade their operations while 67 per cent said they will train their workers to do more.

Almost 70 per cent plan to invest in technology and 74 per cent said they will focus on increasing productivity.

Nonetheless, many are seeking more help from the Government, with 72 per cent saying they hope the issue of rising labour and rental costs will be addressed in the upcoming annual Budget.

Almost half said they also hope that the Government will extend some help to ease employment pressures, especially in terms of foreign worker quotas.