Singapore Firms Worry About Surging Business Costs

Business costs have become the primary concern for Singapore firms, outstripping other concerns such as access to financing options and lowering of the foreign worker levy/quota, according to the 2011 Pre-Budget Survey by the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce Industry (SCCCI).


"Global competition from emerging economies, increase in commodity prices and a tight labour market have contributed to surging costs," says the SCCCI. Many SCCCI members hope that the Singapore government would consider the need for businesses to stay competitive and sustainable in a volatile and aggressive environment by introducing more cost-relief measures in Budget 2011.


In its Budget Wishlist, the SCCCI is calling for an increase in the level of government subsidies for customised training courses to meet the specific requirements of companies while Singapore transforms into a knowledge-based economy. These programmes could include training SMEs in change management, innovative business models and PR/media handling to tackle crisis management/sensitive situations when dealing with customers.


Members also want more incentives to be given to SMEs to venture overseas jointly as a group or consortium with their industry counterparts, and pool their resources to clinch more deals. Many SMEs are keen to explore emerging markets, new-growth business sectors and economies which rely heavily on cutting-edge technology. The smaller companies would greatly benefit from added government incentives and financial grants to participate in such focused expeditions in non-traditional markets.


The chamber is also seeking for additional subsidies for the purchase of IT products and services, especially greater assistance provided by the government in financing the procurement of high-tech and expensive equipment. SMEs are looking to harness ICT as a leveller to compete against the major industry players.


The group is also hoping for a reduction in business costs (e.g. utilities, government fees such as licensing charges and online application and information charges levied by government agencies including URA, HDB, AVA, NEA etc) as these government charges, taken altogether, adds to the financial burden of SMEs and start-up companies.


The wishlist also includes lowering of corporate income tax to 16.5%; increased GST rebates and concessions; reduction of property tax and provision of more rental rebates; and reduction of transportation costs.


The group also seeks tax incentives for port operators to reduce container wharfing charges to facilitate export and re-export business.


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