Budget debate: MPs urge support for businesses to leverage opportunities in growing green economy

People shop at Chong Pang market on Jan 26, 2021. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Local businesses should get help to leverage opportunities in the growing green economy, MPs said on Wednesday (Feb 24).

Speaking during the Budget debate, they highlighted how corporates and investors are placing a greater focus on environmental, social and governance (ESG) considerations, and how firms could best position themselves along with this trend.

Mr Edward Chia (Holland-Bukit Timah GRC) said that Singapore needs to position its entrepreneurs to ride this wave of new investor and consumer consciousness.

Assisting home-grown businesses to reposition their business models means that they would be able to tap the growing appetite for impact investments and create opportunities for capital flows into Singapore's economy, he said.

In addition, it would also build greater resilience, as more consumers and clients shift their spending towards more sustainable goods, and expand the economic and societal value of enterprises, he said.

Ms Foo Mee Har (West Coast GRC) said that Singapore's green agenda holds much promise for its future, with the issuance of green bonds set to provide a substantial capital base for sustainable developments in Singapore and the region.

"Singapore is well-positioned to serve as a living lab and testbed for emerging green technologies, as well as a hub to foster collaboration and co-creation," she said.

Ms Foo called on the Government to ensure development of green local firms to be an integral part of the $25 billion committed under the Research, Innovation and Enterprise 2025 Plan.

She added: "It is critical that in our drive for sustainability, we fully leverage this opportunity to grow a new generation of green local firms, support them to build their green capabilities and position them to capture emerging opportunities."

As Singapore embraces sustainable development, the role of the private sector should also be integral, said Nominated MP Cheng Hsing Yao.

"The public sector has a key role in opening up the space for the private sector to participate and innovate," he added.

He called on private firms to broaden their mindset from just serving their shareholders to serving their relevant stakeholders better, as doing so can be good for business.

Bolstering transformation efforts

Workers' Party MP Louis Chua (Sengkang GRC) called for intensified efforts to support small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to scale up and internationalise.

He asked if Singapore could better incentivise large local government-linked companies or even multi-national corporations to partner with local SMEs in their internalisation efforts, beyond facilitating access to global markets and providing technical and financial assistance.

At the same time, he urged more to be done to provide SMEs the chance to scale up and build up their track records locally, pointing out that Singapore's open economy and transparent business rules mean that international MNCs can easily outbid local SMEs in domestic tenders, especially in price-based contracts.

Rules and regulations governing different industry sectors should also be retooled to help firms looking to go beyond their field in search of new opportunities, said Mr Chia.

He cited local company PBA Group, which started as a hardware shop in 1987 and has since pivoted to become a precision robotics manufacturer catering to the likes of the semiconductor and mobile device segments.

He also pointed out that as workers' training is stepped up, training for business owners should also be beefed up.

"Crucially, business consultancy should go hand in hand with training so that training for all levels of staff within a business is tailored to match the business' growth stage and journey," Mr Chia said.

Join ST's WhatsApp Channel and get the latest news and must-reads.