TODAY Online - Businesses hail Budget boost, but worries remain over tight labour supply

They called them well-calibrated and focused on helping firms


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Businesses welcomed Budget initiatives announced by Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat yesterday, calling them well-calibrated and focused on helping firms especially small and medium enterprises (SMEs) transform amid increasing cost pressure, but hoped more would be done on the labour front.

Giving a broad stroke, Mr Chiu Wu Hong, head of enterprise at KPMG in Singapore said that the Budget would help SMEs continue restructuring as they grow domestically and also compete internationally.

The SME working capital loan scheme and raising of corporate tax rebates go a long way in avoiding cash flow problems, which are very much a core challenge of start-ups with the S$20,000 cap to ensure prudence, while assisting SMEs and start-ups manage overheads, especially employment costs, said Mr Rohith Murthy, co-founder and managing director of SingSaver.com.sg.

The SG-Innovate scheme is expected to attract venture capitalists with deep pockets to Singapore. “Entrepreneurs don’t just need capital — they need help and expertise,” Mr Carl Firth, chief executive and founder of ASLAN Pharmaceuticals said.

The more focused sectoral approach to assisting firms will encourage them to take advantage of the many incentives offered to boost innovation and internationalisation to create value. “A common reason for firms choosing not to take up incentives in the past was because these incentives were not customised to their specific needs … An increased emphasis on innovation and internationalisation is vital to drive value creation in the economy,” Mr Joseph Alfred, head of policy & technical from the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants Singapore said.

Adding a sense of urgency, Mr Victor Mills, chief executive of the Singapore International Chamber of Commerce said: “There is no time to lose … It (the Budget) is realistic and provides the Government with the options of doing more if the economic headwinds worsen and as the Committee for the Future Economy provides its input.” The clear aim is to obtain value for every dollar spent, which is evident in the schemes to help the young and seniors and to support businesses and workers as they adjust and develop new solutions and skills to meet the changed economic realities, he added.

With an ageing population, the extension of the special employment credit helps ease employment costs, said Mr David Cheang, CEO of DC13 Group of Companies. “The SME working capital loan scheme will help us cope with loans and our finances, and provides growth to feed overseas expansion goals,” he said.

While appreciating the incentives, some businesses would like more assistance in terms of labour costs for SMEs, due to relatively tight supply. “We hope that the Government can rethink its manpower policies and incentives. While training can help raise the standard of professionalism over time, we also need immediate help,” said Dr T Chandroo, chairman and CEO, Modern Montessori International Group.

According to Mr Mark Yong, marketing director at Ewins, business will get a boost through internationalisation initiatives and corporate income tax rebates besides the added advantage from the business grants portal. “I was, however, hoping for more long-term investments in building capabilities, although I recognise short-term fixes are necessary in these difficult times,” Mr Yong added.

Mr Sabby Gill, executive vice-president (International) of Epicor Software Corporation, noted that the new Industry Transformation Programme will encourage innovation and boost productivity gains.

Mr Dhanya Thakkar, MD of Trend Micro Asia-Pacific, said that given the shortage in technology talents in the fields such as cybersecurity and as rapid digitalisation exposes businesses and citizens to greater cyber-threats, TechSkills Accelerator will ensure preparedness and resilience as a nation.

Source: TODAY Online


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