MTI will focus on SMEs
Issues small and medium-sized enterprises face dominate Committee of Supply debate in Parliament
Amid rising anti-globalisation sentiments and industry disruptions, it has become increasingly difficult to anticipate which sector, enterprise model or job type will be "Uberised".
The most durable strategy to cope with the uncertainty, said Minister for Trade and Industry S Iswaran, is to focus on what will keep Singapore relevant to the world and its needs.
One way this can be done is through transforming companies by building capabilities for higher levels of productivity, innovation and internationalisation, Mr Iswaran said during the Committee of Supply debate in Parliament yesterday.
As small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are the heart of Singapore's economy - they employ two-thirds of the workforce, and contribute to half of the gross domestic product - support for SMEs was naturally one of the issues that dominated the debate yesterday.
Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry Sim Ann assured the House that SMEs will be the ministry's focus in the next few years.
She said: "The MTI (Ministry of Trade and Industry) family's response is clear - we want to help SMEs succeed. We provide assistance.
"We are making it easier for SMEs to receive assistance. And we are doing more to help SMEs implement step-by-step plans, if they wish to transform."
SMEs can think of Industry Transformation Maps (ITM) - a key mechanism to build enterprise capabilities and transform sectors - as a guide to the key shifts in the industry.
For instance, the Food Services ITM helps SMEs address a key challenge of relying heavily on manpower through technology.
Given the rapid technological changes, Mr Yee Chia Hsing (Chua Chu Kang) asked how SMEs can increase their competitiveness.
Ms Sim said MTI has taken steps to improve SMEs' access to technology solutions.
We provide assistance. We are making it easier for SMEs to receive assistance. And we are doing more to help SMEs implement stepby- step plans, if they wish to transform.Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry Sim Ann
For instance, those that wish to develop, prototype and test new products can tap on the Tech Access initiative, which was introduced in Budget 2017.
The Tech Access initiative provides SMEs with access to advanced machine tools for prototyping and testing through Agency for Science, Technology and Research, or A*Star.
Miss Cheryl Chan (Fengshan) and Mr Saktiandi Supaat (Bishan-Toa Payoh) asked if heartland enterprises would be left out in the slew of initiatives to take SMEs forward.
Ms Sim assured them that that would not happen.
"We are working with the Federation of Merchants' Associations, Singapore (FMAS) to deepen their internal capabilities and rejuvenate our heartlands," she said.
Two pilot studies in Bedok and Ang Mo Kio to identify market needs and formulate precinct development plans could benefit more than 2,500 heartland enterprises, she added.
This is just one of the ways trade associations and chambers (TAC) can act as multipliers to drive change in their areas of expertise, said Ms Sim.
Given the sheer number of active SMEs here, the Government cannot help all businesses transform alone.
"Through closer cooperation between the government, TACs and SMEs, we will be better able to foster best practices and opportunities together, and come up with impactful projects to benefit our SMEs," she said.