Singapore

More financial support to help firms adapt to ‘new reality’

Bigger grants and expanded loan schemes aimed at helping companies raise productivity, expand abroad

Companies looking to increase productivity, expand overseas, or simply pivot and grow, will soon be able to tap bigger grants and expanded loan schemes.

These support schemes are no longer about tiding businesses over the current crisis, but helping them adapt to the new reality, Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing said as he announced several enhancements yesterday.

Firms looking to internationalise will have up to 80 per cent of qualifying costs covered from Nov 1 to Sept 30 next year - up from 70 per cent currently - under the Market Readiness Assistance Grant.

The scope of the grant's coverage will be extended to include participation in virtual trade fairs, to encourage companies to find new overseas opportunities through such platforms, Mr Chan said during a virtual media briefing.

The higher level of support currently available to businesses looking to pivot, grow and digitalise will be available for an additional nine months.

The Enterprise Development and Productivity Solutions grants will now cover up to 80 per cent of qualifying costs until Sept 30 next year.

More help will also be available to businesses seeking loans.

The Temporary Bridging Loan Programme, which provides access to working capital and a financing scheme for trade loans will be extended by six months.

Both schemes will see the Government's risk share lowered from 90 per cent to 70 per cent from April 1 next year, however.

Speaking after a visit to SK Jewellery's headquarters in Changi Business Park, Mr Chan said the retail sector faces a bumpy road to recovery, as the challenges it faces are twofold.

Structural pressures such as the rise of e-commerce had already put it under strain before the pandemic hit, the minister noted, while a lower propensity to spend will persist in the near term.

There are serious implications to this, as the retail sector employs about 4.1 per cent of the Republic's total workforce, Mr Chan said. "Any impact on the retail industry will have very grave consequences on the employment prospects of the workers in Singapore."

Manpower Minister Josephine Teo said at the same event that there are 2,500 jobs available in the retail industry, of which two in five are for professionals, managers, executives and technicians.

Workers in the sector are also being trained to meet the challenges of digitalisation, and redeployed to higher value-add job roles, she said.

Mr Chan warned that businesses that do not move away from the traditional retail model will find it difficult to survive.

Singapore companies will have to distinguish themselves in an international marketplace, he said, citing SK Jewellery as an example of a retailer that has developed a niche by creating lab-grown diamonds.

The company has also developed virtual consultations for customers shopping for engagement rings, tapping schemes such as the Enterprise Development Grant to enhance its e-commerce and last-mile delivery capabilities.

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BUSINESS & FINANCE