More help for Singapore businesses and workers to grow and transform

More help for Singapore businesses and workers to grow and transform

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SINGAPORE: From customised help for high-growth companies to making financing schemes more accessible and enhancing support for employer-led training, Singapore will continue to double down on efforts to help businesses grow while ensuring that workers benefit from the transformation.

More details on how these will be done were given during the Ministry of Trade and Industry’s Committee of Supply debate on Monday (Mar 4).

The new Scale-up SG programme, for one, will groom high-growth enterprises into “future global champions” by helping to develop and implement long-term plans tailored to their growth priorities, said Senior Minister of State Chee Hong Tat.

He used the example of a healthcare services company that may be looking to double its footprint overseas through merger and acquisitions (M&A), or developing its own products.

“Through Scale-up SG, the company will receive targeted support to develop a commercially viable product prototype, as well as to shortlist and validate acquisition targets,” he explained.

To be implemented by Enterprise Singapore in collaboration with public and private sector partners, the new programme will identify 10 to 15 companies with similar growth profiles and priorities for each cohort. Each cycle will last two to three years, according to a MTI factsheet.

Enterprise Singapore will support up to 70 per cent of the participation cost but a co-funding principle will ensure the commitment of participating companies, it added.

By helping these companies grow and succeed, Mr Chee hopes there can be a trickle-down effect in terms of opportunities for other firms. “In this way, we can sustain our scale-up efforts and grow more Singapore companies into globally competitive enterprises.”

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Businesses will also find it simpler to access financing support under a new streamlined initiative set to be launched this October.

The Enterprise Financing Scheme (EFS) will streamline eight existing SME financing initiatives and is set to cover financing needs across different stages of growth, including trade, working capital, fixed assets, venture debt, mergers and acquisitions and project financing. 

On top of that, Mr Chee said the maximum insurance cover for overseas project financing under the EFS will be raised to S$50 million, while the maximum tenure will be increased to 15 years. 

The Government will also support a higher risk-share for loans to young enterprises under EFS, for both domestic and international projects. For enterprises venturing into challenging markets, there will be a higher risk-share as they face higher hurdles in obtaining financing, Mr Chee added. 

TRANSFORMATION MUST BENEFIT PEOPLE

Senior Minister of State Koh Poh Koon, meanwhile, provided an update on the ongoing industry transformation efforts. 

Following the first phase where a sectoral approach was taken with the launch of 23 Industry Transformation Maps, the Government has embarked on the next phase to build and deepen linkages between complementary industries. 

“In this way, industry stakeholders along different parts of the value chain can come together to innovate and ride on market opportunities,” said Dr Koh. 

Transformation efforts have begun to bear fruit, he added. 

For instance, the Republic Polytechnic’s Centre of Innovation for Supply Chain Management has rolled out several initiatives to help strengthen supply chain and logistics capabilities in the trade and connectivity cluster. One of which, the GoLEAN Improvement Programme, has helped companies to systematically optimise their processes, said Dr Koh. 

Still, transformation must translate into new opportunities for Singaporeans.

He cited his observations about how some companies have yet to translate increased productivity into tangible benefits for workers. “Some workers find it hard to see how industry transformation can benefit them,” he said. 

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To enable this, the Enterprise Development Grant will be extended for three more years to allow companies to enjoy up to 70 per cent of qualifying costs until the end of FY2022.

The Inclusive Growth Programme (IGP) – currently administered by NTUC’s e2i to help companies kickstart productivity projects – will also be merged with the EDB – a “significant change” to send a “strong signal” about keeping people at the heart of industry transformations, said Dr Koh. 

“We will do so by requiring businesses embarking on EDG projects from Apr 1, 2020, to commit to fulfilment of worker outcomes. These outcomes may include wage increases, job creation, job redesign or hiring of older workers. 

“With this change, workers’ outcomes will be a mandatory consideration from the very first dollar of the EDG funding,” he said. 

On the same note, the Productivity Solutions Grant (PSG) – introduced in 2018 to support firms in adopting pre-scoped IT solutions and equipment – will be enhanced with a new subsidy for employer-led training. 

Enterprises which qualify for PSG can apply for an additional training subsidy to cover 70 per cent of their out-of-pocket training expenses, capped at S$10,000 per enterprise, said Mr Chee. 

“Enterprise transformation must start with its people, to redesign jobs and upskill workers. Transformation may be technology-driven, but it should remain human-centric and people-led.”

Source: CNA/sk

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