Singapore Budget 2017: 7 measures that stood out for companies

Workers at an ASL Marine shipyard. Hard-hit marine and process sectors will see the planned foreign worker levy hikes put off for one more year again.
Workers at an ASL Marine shipyard. Hard-hit marine and process sectors will see the planned foreign worker levy hikes put off for one more year again. ST PHOTO: DESMOND FOO

SINGAPORE - Companies received some near-term support to weather the current economic slowdown, while others will benefit from new measures to help them innovate, scale up and go global.

Here are seven measures that stood out from Budget 2017:

1. Foreign worker levy hikes deferred for some

This applies to the hard-hit marine and process sectors which will see the planned hikes put off for one more year again, from July 1 this year to June 30, 2018. Work permit levies for the manufacturing sector also remain unchanged, as will levy rates for more skilled S Pass holders across all industries.

But the Government is going ahead with planned levy increases for construction firms, so as to keep pushing for productivity improvement. From July 1 this year to June 30, 2019, the levy rates for Basic tier R2 workers will be raised from $650 now to $700.

2. $700m worth of infrastructure projects sped up to help construction firms

More help is on the way for the construction sector, hard hit by property slowdown and economic uncertainties.

Some $700 million in public sector projects will be brought forward in the next two years. Construction firms can bid for these projects, which will include the upgrading of community clubs and sports facilities.

A new $150 million Public Sector Construction Productivity Fund will be be set up for government agencies to procure expensive new technology or equipment for use by construction firms.

3. Cap for corporate income tax rebate raised, rebate extended

Cap will be increased from $20,000 to $25,000 for Year of Assessment (YA) 2017.

The rebate itself - at 50 per cent of tax payable - is extended one more year to YA2018, but at a lower rate of 20 per cent of tax payable.

 

4. Government co-invest fund to help Singapore firms go global

The Government will help Singapore-based firms scale up and internationalise by co-investing with them in foreign companies.

It is putting in $600 million into an International Partnership Fund, which will be managed by a unit of Temasek Holdings, Singapore's state investment company. 

The Government will also enhance its Internationalisation Finance Scheme to enable firms to tap on the growing market for infrastructure development, especially in Asia, by catalysing private financing for such overseas projects.

5. $100 million in new schemes to boost Singaporeans' capabilities to operate overseas

The Government will set up a Global Innovation Alliance for Singaporeans to gain overseas experience, build networks, and collaborate with their counterparts in other innovative cities.

An Innovators Academy will allow tertiary students to build connections and capabilities overseas, building on the NUS Overseas College programme.

The Government will also establish Innovation Launchpads in selected overseas markets, creating opportunities for entrepreneurs and business owners to connect with mentors, investors, and service providers.

Through Welcome Centres, innovative foreign companies can also link up with Singapore partners to co-innovate, test new products in Singapore, and expand in the region.

The Government also aims to develop 800 potential leaders over three years, through the SkillsFuture Leadership Development Initiative. These leaders will be sent for specialised courses, and overseas postings.

6. Help for SMEs to digitise their businesses

A SME Go Digital Programme, with funds of more than $80 million, will be set up to help small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) adopt more digital technology to improve productivity.

The plans include a new SME Technology Hub for firms to get advice on both off-the-shelf and customised tech solutions. They will also get step-by-step advice on the technologies they can use through industry digital plans for specific sectors such as retail, food services, cleaning and security.

Firms ready to pilot new technologies will get advice and funding support.

7. Help to access advanced machine tools

Companies will get more support to access advanced machine tools for prototyping and testing, which may be too costly for them to purchase. Under a new Tech Access Initiative, A*Star will provide access to such equipment, user training and advice.