Trade associations can do more as intermediaries: Chun Sing

SINGAPORE - Trade associations can do more to help direct Government resources to support the small and medium-sized enterprises in need.

Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Chan Chun Sing made this comment after a REACH dialogue session on this year's budget.

The closed-door event at the Singapore Chinese Cultural Centre on Friday (Mar 3) drew around 125 participants, including business members of the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Association of Small and Medium Enterprises, among others.

Mr Chan, who was joined by Minister of State for Manpower Teo Ser Luck during the dialogue, noted that the Government needs help to more effectively support the myriad needs across businesses and sectors.

"One of the night's conclusions was that we can better leverage on the capabilities of trade associations and chambers. They can help organise SMEs within their sectors and act as an intermediary with the Government agencies, which can then apply the support schemes in a more targeted fashion.

"Otherwise it's very difficult for Government officials to understand each and every sector, given their finite resources."

Meanwhile, he felt that the participants showed a "mature" response to some of the less popular budget measures.

"Notwithstanding that some of us may feel some pain from some areas of the budget, some may get more, overall the response showed an understanding that we really need to step up to the plate and improve competitiveness as individual and as business," Mr Chan said.

This year's budget unveils a 30 per cent water price hike, to be fully implemented in two years, and a carbon tax, which is targeted for 2019.

The rising water prices were one of the concerns among the participants.

A Mr Li, who wished to remain be identified only by his last name, said the hike will be a major impact on households and SMEs.

"I really don't see why there's a need for such a major hike during an economic downturn. At the very least the hike should be implemented in phases, say 10 per cent a year to lower the impact," he told The Straits Times at the side of event.