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SINGAPORE BUDGET 2019

Eight in 10 SMEs expecting more business incentives in Budget: DBS poll

EIGHT in 10 small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in Singapore are expecting more business incentives in the upcoming Budget, looking to the government for a leg-up in supporting their business growth, according to a DBS survey conducted over the last week.

This is because manpower issues (26.5 per cent), high operational costs (21.5 per cent) and challenges in growing business revenue (21 per cent) continue to plague SMEs in a difficult economic environment. Manpower challenges include hiring the right people (43 per cent) and retaining employees (27 per cent).

However, things are looking up on the upskilling front, where four in five SMEs said employees are now equipped with the right skills for the job. The survey also found that the government’s SkillsFuture efforts are paying off with nine in 10 SMEs saying they now have access to affordable training programmes.

This has allowed SMEs to focus on maintaining or growing market share (30 per cent), growing business revenue (29 per cent), and developing digital business capabilities (23 per cent).

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Joyce Tee, DBS's group head of SME banking, said: “Many of our SMEs customers have channelled resources to upskilling their employees so that they can improve their overall productivity and efficiency. The benefits reaped are plentiful, and they can now focus their efforts on other parts of their business, such as growing their revenue and expanding overseas.”

The survey also found 18 per cent of SMEs looking towards overseas expansion this year. However, a lack of market knowledge and  an understanding of regulatory requirements are some main challenges, according to 55 per cent of SMEs. Meanwhile, finding the right partner to collaborate with is a challenge for one quarter of respondents when it comes to overseas expansion.

Against this backdrop, seven in 10 SMEs are turning to government agencies for advice, with 27 per cent seeking guidance on partnerships and business grants, 24 per cent on internationalisation and scaling up their business, and 19 per cent looking forward to receiving assistance on tax-related matters.

“Even though smaller businesses typically require more assistance in weathering storms, innovation, nimbleness and the ability to adapt to change quickly will enable SMEs to thrive in uncertain times,” said Ms Tee.