SINGAPORE (Feb 15): Some eight in 10 small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in Singapore are expecting the government to announce more incentives at Budget 2019 to help support business growth amid a challenging economic environment.
This is according to a dipstick poll by DBS Bank, which conducted a pre-budget survey with 150 of its SME clients last week.
More than a quarter of SMEs cited manpower issues such as hiring the right people and retaining employees as a major challenge, while more than a fifth complain of high operational costs.
Despite looming global trade uncertainties and a slowing domestic economy, 18% of SMEs polled said they are looking to expand overseas this year.
However, 55% of SMEs cited the lack of market knowledge and understanding of regulatory requirements as the main challenges of overseas expansion. Further, a quarter said they could not find the right partner to collaborate with.
“Even though smaller businesses typically require more assistance in weathering storms, innovation, nimbleness and the ability to adapt to change quickly will enable SMEs to thrive in uncertain times,” says Joyce Tee, DBS’ group head of SME banking.
In this light, the DBS poll found that seven in 10 SMEs are turning to government agencies for advice.
Some 27% are seeking guidance on partnerships and business grants, 24% on internationalisation and scaling up their business, and 19% are looking forward to receiving assistance on tax-related matters.
In addition, SMEs said they continue to grapple with manpower challenges such as hiring the right people (43%) and retaining employees (27%).
However, in a nod to the government’s SkillsFuture initiatives, nine in 10 SMEs polled said that they now have access to affordable training programmes.
“Many of our SMEs customers have channelled resources to upskilling their employees so that they can improve their overall productivity and efficiency. The benefits reaped are plentiful, and they can now focus their efforts on other parts of their business, such as growing their revenue and expanding overseas,” says Tee.