Dr Wan Rizal: To ask the Minister for Trade and Industry (a) how many companies have since closed down due to pressures from the COVID-19 pandemic; and (b) what are the current and future efforts to support local firms for post-crisis growth to maintain our status as an international business hub.
Oral Answer (to be attributed to Minister of State for Trade and Industry Low Yen Ling)
1. Over the last two years, an average of around 3,840 firms were deregistered each month, similar to the period of 2017-2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic. On the other hand, an average of more than 5,000 new firms were registered each month over the last two years, reflecting an increase in the total number of businesses operating in Singapore, despite the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
2. In the last two years, the Government has committed substantial resources to help our businesses weather the immediate impact of COVID-19. We are also helping our businesses prepare for post Covid-19 recovery and continuing to enhance Singapore’s position as a business hub in several ways.
3. First, we are strengthening both our physical and digital connectivity. For example, we are gradually and carefully reopening our borders to more countries through arrangements such as the Vaccinated Travel Lanes (VTLs). Our ports are kept operating throughout the pandemic to ensure supply chain resilience. We will continue to enhance both our air and sea connectivity.
4. The Government is similarly extending Singapore’s digital connectivity by establishing a network of Digital Economy Agreements (DEAs) with like-minded partners. We are also investing in digital infrastructure and capability building for our businesses and workers to access such opportunities. For example, the Grow Digital initiative helps SMEs tap on established e-commerce platforms to better access global markets, while the Enterprise Development Grant encourages SMEs to transform and strengthen their capabilities. In addition, we are partnering industry stakeholders in this endeavour. An example is the SGTraDex, which is a common data infrastructure that enables businesses to transit into the digital domain. It also builds a stronger and more robust supply chain ecosystem for international trade flows.
5. Second, we are supporting our businesses in capturing new and emerging opportunities, such as those from the green sector. As part of the Singapore Green Plan 2030 announced this year, we will help our enterprises and workforce harness sustainability as a competitive advantage, and develop innovative solutions for the green economy. These include, among others, carbon trading and related services, low-carbon solutions, green finance, and green infrastructure. Enterprise Singapore recently launched the Enterprise Sustainability Programme which supports businesses, especially SMEs, to build capabilities and capture new opportunities in this exciting space.
6. Third, we are helping businesses transform for the future economy, sector by sector. The Future Economy Council is currently refreshing the Industry Transformation Maps (ITMs) to meet the accelerated changes brought about by COVID-19. For each of the 23 ITM sectors, we are working with our tripartite partners to update our sectoral strategies to seize new opportunities, as well as improve the productivity and wages of workers through digitalisation, innovation, internationalisation, upskilling and job redesign.
7. These are the fundamentals which underpin our competitiveness and ensure that Singapore remains as a global-Asia node for technology, innovation and enterprise.
8. I am confident that through close partnership with Singaporeans and the business community, we will be able to emerge stronger together.