SMEs have much to gain from Budget, says panel

(From left) Singapore International Chamber of Commerce chief executive Victor Mills moderating the panel discussion, which featured The Straits Times' associate editor, Mr Vikram Khanna; Mr Ahmad Nazmi Idrus, a senior economist at RHB Investment Ban
(From left) Singapore International Chamber of Commerce chief executive Victor Mills moderating the panel discussion, which featured The Straits Times' associate editor, Mr Vikram Khanna; Mr Ahmad Nazmi Idrus, a senior economist at RHB Investment Bank; Association of Small and Medium Enterprises president Kurt Wee; and Ms Allison Cheung, a tax partner for corporate tax advisory services at PwC Singapore; yesterday at the NTUC Centre.ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) have a lot to gain from the Budget, said a panel of industry experts yesterday.

The panel discussion was part of a seminar - Budget 2019: What's In It For SME? - that featured speakers who addressed topics such as government funding before they came together for the discussion.

The panel was moderated by Mr Victor Mills, chief executive of the Singapore International Chamber of Commerce.

Comments focused, in large part, on the move to streamline existing financial schemes.

Mr Kurt Wee, president of the Association of Small and Medium Enterprises, said the consolidation will be a boon to businesses: "The simpler structures are going to help SMEs navigate and tap these support schemes better."

He added that there are plenty of satellite resource centres to assist firms to access the correct type of government funding.

The Straits Times' associate editor, Mr Vikram Khanna, pointed out that companies must fundamentally possess a clear road map if they want to succeed: "They first need to have a plan and be clear about what they would like to change."

 
 
 

The upcoming cut in foreign worker quotas, which could impact the manpower crunch already hitting the hospitality and service sectors, was also discussed.

Mr Wee said the fight for talent is a global one, while Mr Khanna stressed the importance of "skills, not nationality".

Mr Ahmad Nazmi Idrus, a senior economist at RHB Investment Bank, pointed out that Singapore's ageing population could further shrink the workforce but cited Japan's method of automating certain jobs through technology and robotics as a possible solution.

Ms Allison Cheung, a tax partner for corporate tax advisory services at PwC Singapore, said it is also essential for business owners to give feedback to the relevant agencies about the support they are getting, especially if things are not going right.

"I can see rectification actions being taken; Budget 2019 is an improvement on last year's, and what we learnt from the past that didn't work is being made into something that might work this year," she said.

"So it helps when the market and public give their honest feedback to the appropriate channels."

Mr Mills called Budget 2019 "a classic Singapore Budget" as it is fiscally sustainable and builds upon previous Budgets, adding: "There is help available for businesses of all shapes and sizes and sectors but first, there is a necessity to do our own homework."

The seminar held at the NTUC Centre was organised by sgsme.sg, a business resource portal powered by The Straits Times, The Business Times and Lianhe Zaobao.

It was the first of six business empowerment seminars supported by RHB Bank and co-hosted by U SME, the SME arm of NTUC.

They are aimed at entrepreneurs, business owners and individuals.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 07, 2019, with the headline 'SMEs have much to gain from Budget, says panel'. Print Edition | Subscribe