Innovative firms the third growth engine
SBF's committee on small- and medium-sized enterprises make recommendations
Singapore will have to create clusters of globally competitive companies if it is to stay relevant in an era where growth is centred on innovation and technology, the Singapore Business Federation (SBF) said yesterday.
These innovative companies can be an important "third growth engine" for the country alongside its traditional reliance on multinational corporations and government-linked companies, according to a new report from the business chamber's committee on small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).
The report makes 21 recommendations to the Government ahead of next month's Budget.
The committee suggested the Government could make Singapore a more conducive place to nurture globally competitive companies by establishing a private bourse to make it easier for innovative, high-risk players to raise capital.
This would be akin to China's New Third Board, an over-the-counter market for investors who can take on riskier investments, said committee chairman Lawrence Leow.
More talent can be attracted if the Government refines its work pass criteria for foreigners to allow entrepreneurs with disruptive technologies to be granted an EntrePass, on condition that they enter into a joint venture with a local firm.
Meanwhile, the cost of doing business remains a top concern among SME bosses.
The SME committee has urged the Government to streamline compliance and regulatory-related costs with the focus falling initially on the advanced manufacturing and food services sectors.
They have also asked the Government to hold back any planned increases in foreign worker levies across all sectors for 36 months and repeated its call for government landlords to take the lead in adopting a fair tenancy framework to give renters some relief, among other things.
Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry Sim Ann, who is an adviser to the SME committee, said the suggestions are built on existing government schemes: "I take that as an affirmation that the existing suite of schemes are in the right direction and that our companies, especially the SMEs, have benefited from them.
"Certainly, the Government will study very carefully the SME committee's suggestions for refinement and enhancement."
The recommendations come ahead of the release of the economic transformation plan from the Government's Committee on the Future Economy later this month.
Local firms go abroad in search of growth
Home-grown firms spread their wings abroad in bold ways last year in search of elusive growth.
Data from trade agency IE Singapore showed that well-known names such as barbecued pork chain Bee Cheng Hiang and budget airline Scoot were among those that ventured to new cities.
Bee Cheng Hiang opened its first retail outlet in Japan in September, aiming high by going for the glitzy Ginza shopping belt in the heart of Tokyo.
Scoot took flight in a different way by starting Singapore's first direct flight to Jaipur, India, as well as heading to Hokkaido, Japan - making it the city's second direct connection to South-east Asia - in September.
Precision engineering firm PBA Group expanded into aerospace manufacturing in the Philippines, with a production plant in the economic zone called Clark Freeport Zone.
PBA chief executive Derrick Yap said: "We have set aside $1 million for the next two years for the plant, and expect to have 30 employees there by 2018."
Raduga, which distributes mobile phones and telecoms equipment and provides solutions to retailers, was another firm that headed to Europe last year.
It started distributing products to countries such as Bulgaria and Moldova.
CapitaLand's serviced-residence business unit, The Ascott, bought a hotel in the Irish capital Dublin for 55.1 million euros (S$83 million) in December, and Oxley Holdings launched its first development project, Dublin Landings, there in October.