SINGAPORE - The Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce & Industry (SCCCI) is urging the government to consider five recommendations to help businesses overcome their challenges in 2018.
1. To extend and enhance the Innovation & Capability Voucher (ICV) for three years to continue the innovation and productivity improvement momentum of businesses;
2. To provide strong funding support to trade associations in the implementation of Industry Transformation Map (ITM) initiatives;
3. To tackle SMEs' (small and medium enterprises) concerns of cost and resource constraints to speed up their adoption of e-commerce in the digital economy;
4. To provide funding support to trade associations to help member companies get workers with the right skills; and
5. To incentivise government-linked companies and large businesses to help SMEs expand overseas.
The recommendations were based on feedback from the SCCCI's 2017 Annual Business Survey which polled 710 respondents across the construction, manufacturing and services sectors, as well as the Survey on Digitalisation.
The surveys had found that the ICV has been a popular government scheme with businesses because they found it easy to apply for. Businesses have also started to witness results in their productivity improvement efforts, hence the recommendation to extend it.
Also, while the ITMs are a major strategy of the Committee on the Future Economy, very few businesses had them as a priority.
"For the relevant trade associations who fall within the 23 ITMs, and wanted to be involved in the ITM implementation, they should proactively engage the relevant implementing government agencies to discuss specific roles and ways in which they would like to be involved, and (the) government should support them with funding support of 80 per cent in the ITM industry projects," the SCCCI said.
To speed up the process of SMEs leveraging the digital economy and e-commerce to benefit their businesses, the chamber also believes that solutions supported by the programme should be cost-effective, easy to use to reduce the difficulties for SMEs to readily participate. The government should also set aside more funding beyond the initial S$80 million so that more SMEs can benefit.
In addition, Singapore is facing a demographic trend of a shrinking local labour force that is also older and more educated. The SCCCI thinks that the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) and its agencies should channel workers made redundant to other sectors with hiring needs, and help trade associations and businesses improve their recruitment effort to access these workers. Where worker retraining is required, the MOM and SkillsFuture should also financially support trade associations and businesses to retrain workers.
Lastly, to help SMEs cross borders, government-linked companies and local large businesses which are viewed as trusted partners can give SMEs a head-start in building a track record overseas through participating in their overseas projects.
"Hunting in a pack" will also promote the combined strengths and capabilities of a Singapore cluster in overseas markets, it said.