Chee Hong Tat takes on advisory role with NTUC unit for SMEs

Junior minister hopes to gather feedback to improve policies that affect smaller firms

Smaller businesses may soon have a bigger voice in policymaking, thanks to a new partnership with a junior government minister.

Senior Minister of State for Communications and Information and Health Chee Hong Tat has taken on an advisory role with the National Trades Union Congress' (NTUC) unit for small and medium-sized enterprises - called U SME.

He said last night at an event unveiling the partnership that he hopes to gather feedback to improve policies that affect SMEs.

Mr Chee is the first fourth-generation leader to be introduced as an adviser to the NTUC's various segments, after Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced at a party convention last November that each of the younger ministers will take on a specific partnership with the labour movement.

Such partnerships are meant to strengthen the "symbiotic relationship" between the People's Action Party and NTUC, Mr Lee added.

Since then, NTUC has invited ministers to advise the labour movement, and Mr Chee expressed interest in helping SMEs, said NTUC assistant director-general Yeo Guat Kwang, who is also director of the SME unit.

Mr Yeo said that through the partnership, Mr Chee will better understand the concerns of SMEs and their workers, as well as lend weight to U SME's efforts to explain government policies to businesses so that they can make the most of available schemes.

"He will be able to serve as the bridge between government agencies and businesses," he said, noting that the unit works with more than 16,000 SMEs. "This arrangement will strengthen our symbiotic relationship, (and) more importantly, it will help the labour movement to stay relevant and be able to help all the stakeholders to come together - strengthening the tripartite collaboration."

Such a collaboration will help workers adapt to the new economy, he added.

Mr Chee said last night that it is important to have dialogues on how to make rules simpler and more pro-business while ensuring they remain nimble enough to accommodate new technologies and business models. The Pro-Enterprise Panel - a group of business leaders and government officials - is working with U SME on a series of workshops to examine regulatory issues and challenges in the catering industry, he added.

"I cannot promise that every feedback (we receive), we'll be able to accede to, we'll be able to change the rules, but you have my commitment: We will look at all your feedback seriously, and where we can, we will change our rules to make them more pro-business, to help you reduce costs and improve productivity," he told 480 representatives of the Association of Catering Professionals Singapore (Acaps).

BRIDGING ROLE

He will be able to serve as the bridge between government agencies and businesses... This arrangement will strengthen our symbiotic relationship, (and) more importantly, it will help the labour movement to stay relevant and be able to help all the stakeholders to come together - strengthening the tripartite collaboration.

MR YEO GUAT KWANG, NTUC assistant director-general, who is also director of the SME unit, on the appointment of junior minister Chee Hong Tat as adviser to NTUC's SME unit. The unit works with over 16,000 SMEs.

Some Acaps members are concerned about red tape. It sometimes takes government agencies quite long to reply to inquiries or to process certificates, said Acaps president Daniel Ang, adding: "Members (also) tell us some rules are too inflexible. Every situation is unique and there are sometimes mitigating factors that have to be taken into consideration."

Mr Chee also said in his speech that the non-confrontational three-way partnership between the Government, unions and employers is Singapore's "unique strength" - with unions and companies cooperating to ensure workers can thrive together with firms.

This provides the foundation and trust to enable the country to transform its economy and compete with other cities, he said.

He added: "On our part, the Government will continue to pursue national policies that promote economic growth, that benefits our enterprises and workers, because we believe this ultimately will improve the lives of all Singaporeans."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 27, 2018, with the headline 'Chee Hong Tat takes on advisory role with NTUC unit for SMEs'. Print Edition | Subscribe