Budget expected to be more targeted as Govt reduces financial support
Next month's Budget is expected to target sectors hit hardest by the pandemic, but spending overall will be reined in after extensive support measures were rolled out last year.
Mr Liang Eng Hwa, chairman of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Finance, Trade and Industry, told a pre-Budget round table yesterday: "I'm a bit more realistic about what to expect for the upcoming Budget because there are only so much financial resources you can use to help."
The Government set aside a $100 billion war chest to tackle the pandemic last year, with most of the funds used to support businesses and save jobs.
"I expect this Budget to be a lot more targeted and differentiated than before, so we really channel and allocate funds to those businesses that need help, grow the economy and create jobs," said Mr Liang during the Institute of Singapore Chartered Accountants round table.
"We'll still have to help, but the numbers will taper off along the way."
Trade association and industry experts said at the virtual event that more can be done to help businesses access existing grants as applications can be cumbersome.
Mr Ang Yuit, vice-president of the Association of Small and Medium Enterprises, said rental relief measures were a lifeline for firms but took a long time to reach small and medium-sized enterprises.
Firms have also said they face a "laborious and bureaucratic" process to get support to reskill workers, he said, adding: "We are concerned that with a slowness in getting that into effect, we'll have people that have to be let go because their skills don't match."
However, less government assistance could actually be a good thing, noted Singapore Retailers Association executive director Rose Tong.
She said grants could distract companies from their business objectives as they tailor their goals to meet qualifying criteria: "This could stifle their authentic growth. Some retailers have also gotten addicted to grants and subsidies such that they may be unwilling to embark on a much-needed transformation initiative should there not be a grant available."