Top start-up attraction, but what's in it for S'poreans?

It was reported recently that in a worldwide survey by US-based organisation Startup Genome, Singapore outperformed Silicon Valley in the United States in attracting start-up talent (S'pore No. 1 in world for start-up talent: Report; March 24).

One key reason cited was the generous government subsidies for start-ups.

There is no denying that the Government has pumped in a lot of money over the last few years to make our island the destination of choice for start-ups.

In my job, I have worked with several start-ups and I have observed that most are very small with fewer than 10 employees, of which the majority usually are foreigners, including the founders.

What this implies is that start-ups hire very few people and even when they hire, they tend to go for lower-cost, non-Singaporean software engineers.

For every cent that the Government puts in for start-ups, it has one cent less to invest in other areas that might create more jobs for Singaporeans.

There is no guarantee that when a start-up grows into a bigger company, it will continue to operate here or hire more Singaporeans.

So as the Government continues to provide substantial grants to woo start-ups here, I wonder what outcomes and benefits it expects to bring to Singaporeans from such schemes.

Are there measures and controls in place to track and assess the effectiveness of such grants, as well as ensure that foreigners are not here just for the grants?

Loh Tat Shiong

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 29, 2017, with the headline 'Top start-up attraction, but what's in it for S'poreans?'. Print Edition | Subscribe