Tweak policies to help firms, says SBF

An office worker at Raffles Place, the heart of the central business district (CBD).
An office worker at Raffles Place, the heart of the central business district (CBD). ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

While its focus is on identifying new ways for the economy to grow, the Singapore Business Federation (SBF) has urged the Government not to forget about the short-term woes of firms here.

The chamber said in its new economic strategy paper released yesterday that it wants an official review of the costs companies are facing, and a re-calibration of the foreign worker levies and policies to help ease the manpower crunch.

"(The Government has said) there is no U-turn and I think the companies accept it... but this is feedback from many of the businesses in our working groups," said SBF chairman S.S. Teo.

The paper calls on the Government to work with business chambers and trade associations to refine its tight foreign labour policies to "make sure that Singapore does not price itself out of the market".

SBF chief executive Ho Meng Kit said: "I think there can be tweaks at the margin, at the sectoral level and at the enterprise level."

One suggestion was for the Government to extend the Lean Enterprise Development scheme to firms that are larger than small and medium-sized enterprises and to give foreign worker levy rebates to reward companies that have reduced their foreign worker dependency.

Mr Teo said: "In the last few years we got feedback that certain signals may have been wrongly received and that we do not welcome foreigners." He added that we have to "make sure that they really bring value to Singapore".

SBF will present its position paper to Mr Heng Swee Keat, Finance Minister and chairman of the Committee on the Future Economy at a conference next Tuesday.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 07, 2016, with the headline 'Tweak policies to help firms, says SBF'. Print Edition | Subscribe