Parliament: Red tape to be cut, licensing rules simplified in move to help businesses

Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry Chee Hong Tat said he recently met the three NTU students behind Binjai Brew, and spoke about how red tape could be reduced for start-ups like theirs.
Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry Chee Hong Tat said he recently met the three students behind Binjai Brew, and talked about how red tape could be reduced for start-ups like theirs.
Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry Chee Hong Tat said he recently met the three students behind Binjai Brew, and talked about how red tape could be reduced for start-ups like theirs.ST PHOTO: TIMOTHY DAVID

SINGAPORE - Entrepreneurs can look forward to a leaner licensing regime and less red tape, as Singapore aims to improve its pro-business environment.

Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry Chee Hong Tat said in Parliament on Thursday (May 17) that this is an important step towards driving economic growth and creating good jobs for Singaporeans as the economy matures.

Among those who would benefit from a more lenient licensing regime are the three students behind Binjai Brew, who had been brewing beer at their residence hall in Nanyang Technological University (NTU) but were asked to stop after the school found out in February.

Mr Chee said he recently met Mr Rahul Immandira, Mr Heetesh Alwani and Mr Abilash Subbaraman, and talked about how red tape could be reduced for start-ups like theirs.

"I have tried their beer; it is very good," he said.

NTU has offered to find ways to help them continue while complying with the law, he noted.

Meanwhile, Mr Chee said he and the Pro-Enterprise Panel (PEP), a group of civil servants and business leaders which acts as an internal advocate for businesses within the Government, have also offered their help.

 
 

"We met the three young men over dinner and had a good discussion on how our current licensing regime could be reviewed to lower the barriers of entry for micro-brewers to test out new products during an initial trial period, before applying a more rigorous set of rules when they subsequently scale up their production and sales," he said.

"My colleagues and I are looking into this suggestion, and we will discuss with the regulatory agencies. I don't know if we can successfully implement this regulatory change, but we will give a shot."

The panel is also working with the Association of Catering Professionals Singapore to "do a deep dive" into the regulatory requirements for the food sector, Mr Chee said.

"Currently, companies can have up to 14 touch-points with different government agencies before they can set up a food shop. We asked ourselves, is it really necessary to have 14 touch-points? This is Singapore, we can do better," he said.

Mr Chee said that red tape will be cut and the licensing regime will be simplified to reduce compliance costs for businesses.

He said: "We have set for ourselves an ambitious target to streamline the 14 forms into one form, and to correspondingly reduce the time taken and licence fees which companies have to pay to start a food business."

The Trade and Industry Ministry will also pro-actively seek feedback from businesses and encourage experimentation via mechanisms such as regulatory sandboxes.

For example, the Monetary Authority of Singapore has a sandbox that banks and financial institutions can use to carry out financial technology, or fintech, experiments within a safe space.

Other agencies such as the Health Ministry have also started their own regulatory sandboxes for telemedicine and the energy sector.

"There is some risk when we embark on regulatory reviews and implement regulatory sandboxes. Some of the pilots could fail and some of the new rules may not work well," Mr Chee said.

"But we have to try, as remaining status quo and playing it safe is simply not tenable when we have to compete with other cities in the world for ideas, investments and talent. In such an environment, the most dangerous strategy is to make no bold moves."