Factory bosses more optimistic on outlook

Employees working at the wafer production line at REC Solar ASA manufacturing facility in Tuas.
Employees working at the wafer production line at REC Solar ASA manufacturing facility in Tuas.PHOTO: ST FILE

Nearly a third of bosses still anticipate a slowdown in business over the next 12 months with those in the construction and engineering sectors staying the most pessimistic, a new survey has found.

It found that a whopping 71 per cent of those in construction and engineering felt a downturn was on the horizon.

Factory bosses were more optimistic, with 46 per cent of manufacturers saying that they expect business to slow.

In contrast, slower growth did not feature among the top three major changes anticipated by those in the healthcare, financial services, professional and business services, and information technology (IT) and telecommunications businesses.

But the construction industry remains stuck in contraction mode, according to the survey by QBE Insurance, which polled 300 bosses of large, small and medium-sized firms across six industries here between April and May. "It's a bloodbath right now, it's bad," said one construction contractor who did not want to be named.

The Government is helping to ease the pain, announcing in the Budget that it would bring forward about $700 million in public sector projects in the next two years. "The Government is trying its best but $700 million is only a fraction of the $30 billion (in construction deal value) a year that the industry is used to, and a lot of overseas players have also come in," this contractor said.

"Construction firms are getting slower in their payments... If they pay you in six months, you have to celebrate."

Separately, the survey found that staff retention is the top challenge for professional and business services, and telecommunications firms. Cost reduction is the biggest challenge for healthcare firms.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 15, 2017, with the headline 'Factory bosses more optimistic on outlook'. Print Edition | Subscribe