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BUDGET 2017

Singapore gives fiscal boost to firms and workers to go further

Several initiatives unveiled on Friday to help firms and Singaporeans go overseas, while helping other businesses to scale up
Saturday, March 4, 2017 - 05:50

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Singapore is doubling down on efforts to tap into external markets and beefing up its domestic sectors to ensure that the economy can grow steadily.

Singapore

SINGAPORE is doubling down on efforts to tap into external markets and beefing up its domestic sectors to ensure that the economy can grow steadily.

From facilitating the flow of innovative ideas and entrepreneurial talent to a financing scheme for small local firms taking on infrastructure projects elsewhere and helping such firms get the know-how and tools to scale up, the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) unveiled a barrage of initiatives aimed at helping local companies grow and reach deeper into markets overseas.

The initiatives introduced on Friday underscore trade-reliant Singapore's urgency in looking for new opportunities globally, even as a recent seminal economic restructuring report noted a "dark shift" away from globalisation last year.

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Trade Minister Lim Hng Kiang, opened the floor to a four-hour parliamentary debate on his ministry's budgetary plans for the coming fiscal year, noted that Singapore has adopted a "consistent and deliberate" strategy to remain open and connected to the world. "Amid the uncertain operating environment, we're convinced that staying the course remains the right thing to do."

Minister for Industry S Iswaran said MTI will continue to help local enterprises grow and tap into opportunities in Asia. "The most durable strategy is to focus on the fundamentals that will keep Singapore relevant to the world and its needs."

In shaping Singapore as the next Silicon Valley, the ministry will consolidate all schemes for local startups under a new umbrella called "Startup SG", which it hopes will cast more attention on the local startup scene. The ministry will also strengthen funding and talent-attraction schemes for startups.

Efforts are also being made to help local companies and workers explore markets abroad, such as for the infrastructure sector; a non-recourse financing option will be set up by the second quarter for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) taking on infrastructure projects elsewhere.

Under this initiative, introduced under the existing Internationalisation Finance Scheme, IE Singapore will co-share up to 70 per cent of default risk for the non-recourse loans for projects in the post-construction phase, and participating financial institutions, the remaining 30 per cent.

Even as the Singapore government introduced a multitude of schemes to help local entities go further, it also sought to shore up support for smaller companies to put them on a steadier footing.

Domestically-oriented sectors made scant productivity gains from 2010 to 2016, growing by only 0.7 per cent a year; outward-oriented ones, on the other hand, raised their productivity by 2.7 per cent a year, noted Mr Lim.

The government is taking the lead in stoking demand for solutions that may not yet exist in the market to give SMEs and startups a head start.

Under an S$80-million programme called PACT through Government Lead Demand (Gov-PACT), it will put out calls for proposals which SMEs can work on to develop and test new solutions.

"Collectively, these efforts will help ensure that our economy remains vibrant with thriving businesses and exciting opportunities for Singaporeans," said Mr Iswaran.

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