Opportunities for SMEs in Singapore
Though the market conditions in Singapore may be challenging, there are still growth opportunities out there for small and medium enterprises (SMEs). However, many of the opportunities may come from abroad and some argue that the main markets are not in Singapore, but in the United States, Europe and China. The global economic outlook remains uncertain, but despite this, Singapore’s economy is in a steady and stable growth trajectory. Barring downside risks, Singapore’s GDP is expected grow by 2% in 2017. Each sector will have unique opportunities and challenges in this uncertain economy. To better match skills supply with industry demand, SPRING Singapore is currently working with stakeholders to develop a Food Manufacturing Skills Framework which will be introduced this year.
Pre-Market Consultation Scheme
Workers will be able to use this framework to plan their careers and learn the skills they need to advance. Also, to remain responsive to the needs of the industry, the Government intends to have a forward-looking regulatory regime that supports innovation. To this end, the Government will help innovative medical devices gain quicker access to the market by establishing a priority review scheme for medtech devices. Applications submitted under this scheme will be prioritised, shortening turn-around-times to register the device. The Government will also launch a “pre-market consultation scheme” to allow medical device developers greater certainty. The Government’s challenge is to ensure Singaporean companies are geared up for the longer term so that they can seize emerging opportunities. This is especially important to sustain competitiveness and growth as others are also similarly adapting themselves. Hence, this is a key focus of the Government’s economic efforts. Also, Singapore is situated at the heart of a region that is an important driver of global economic growth. Asean, China and India are bright spots, with the Asean-5 countries expected to grow at 4.9 per cent in 2017, China at 6.7 per cent and India at 6.6 per cent. Their growth emanates not just from the key regions and main cities, but increasingly from the next tier of cities and regions with which Singapore might be less familiar. Singapore needs to go beyond traditional spaces and deepen its knowledge and acquire a more nuanced understanding of these new markets.
Transformation of SMEs
The Government will also be reviewing its land zoning regulations. With manufacturing business models shifting towards service-driven activities, current zonal restrictions may be too limiting. The Jurong Town Corporation (JTC) and the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) have been working on a more flexible industrial land zoning approach. This will be piloted at a JTC-developed multi-tenanted building and located within Woodlands North Coast. Several shifts have been made to Singapore’s Research, Innovation and Enterprise ecosystem to ensure that Singapore is well-positioned to harness technology and innovation to drive our next phase of economic growth. To further assist SMEs, the Government will also continue to provide short-term relief where necessary through the system of broad-based support we have built up over the years. To help with wage costs, the Government introduced the Wage Credit Scheme and the Special Employment Credit (SEC) scheme, while to assist SMEs with liquidity, Singapore introduced the SME Working Capital Loan in 2016, which has catalysed more than $700 million dollars in loans to about 4,300 SMEs. In summary, the opportunities in Singapore are significant. The most durable solution lies in moving up the value curve, innovating, offering products and services that others are not offering, and adopting management methods and techniques that will close the big gaps in productivity in some sectors compared to international best practices. The Government is resolute in its support, through broad-based and targeted programmes, to help SMEs make this transformation successfully.
Ultimately, creating vibrant, competitive industries with strong capabilities is the surest way to ensure the success of all SMEs. The Government looks forward to working closely with trade associations and chambers, and unions to ensure a diverse enterprise eco-system, a thriving SME community and a strong economy rich with opportunities.