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Business confidence up in Singapore but uncertainty remains in Asia-Pac: survey

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Business confidence has picked up in Singapore in the last three months, lifted by stronger sentiments in China, but nervousness remains in the Asia-Pacific region, a survey showed.

BUSINESS confidence has picked up in Singapore in the last three months, lifted by stronger sentiments in China, but nervousness remains in the Asia-Pacific region, a survey showed.

The latest Global Economic Conditions Survey, released on Friday by the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) and the Institute of Management Accountants (IMA), noted that business confidence is subdued despite an improving global outlook amid uncertainties.

Reuter Chua, head of ACCA Singapore, said the sense of crisis that dominated the second half of 2015 has now faded, but warned that Singapore is not out of the woods yet.

"Now is not the time for complacency. Although we are seeing a pickup in confidence, businesses in Singapore are undoubtedly still nervous about the future. Almost half (47 per cent) of those we asked reported cuts in capital expenditure and declining orders (42 per cent) while most worryingly of all, 60 per cent told us they were in the midst of a hiring freeze."

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The situation is not surprising given the current volatility across the global markets, Mr Chua said, adding that Singapore, Hong Kong and Malaysia are among the most open economies in the world.

Global events such as Britain's decision to leave the European Union (EU) will be felt globally for the foreseeable future, he said.

"It would not be a surprise if business sentiment falls in Q3. The potential for long-term uncertainty as the United Kingdom negotiates its complex departure from the EU could weigh down on global confidence for some time to come. It is important that the UK government acts fast to come up with a plan for its trade links across the world."

Fieldwork for the Q2 2016 survey took place between June 3 and 20, before the Brexit referendum.

More than 1,200 respondents from ACCA and IMA around the world, including more than 130 chief financial officers, participated.

Nearly half the respondents were from small and medium enterprises, with the rest working for large firms of more than 250 employees.

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