Help SMEs comply with rules more easily

In his Budget speech, Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat mentioned the need to help small and medium-sized enterprises meet rising costs and tackle slowing export demand.

Another way to help the SMEs would be to make it easier for them to comply with government regulations.

Here is an example:

My friend runs a private school and one of his staff, who was responsible for applying for student passes for foreign students, recently resigned because she found it difficult to cope.

She had to enter detailed data for a large number of applications on the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) website.

I have submitted an online application for a foreign worker work pass before and had to spend a few hours just for one application, so I can imagine what she had to go through.

A lot of time was spent reading the detailed instructions on navigating the complicated website, selecting the right codes for the data required, and going from one page to another.

For me, most of the time was spent reading the detailed instructions on navigating the complicated website, selecting the right codes for the data required, and going from one page to another.

If the ICA had allowed me to submit the information on a scanned, neatly handwritten form, its data entry staff would probably have taken just a fraction of the time that I had spent.

The Government should help the SMEs by giving agencies the resources to recruit enough workers to handle the "customer interface", especially when it comes to entering complicated data on websites.

Tan Kin Lian

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 28, 2016, with the headline 'Help SMEs comply with rules more easily'. Print Edition | Subscribe