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Speech by MOS Low Yen Ling during the Ministry of Trade and Industry's Committee of Supply Debate

Speech by MOS Low Yen Ling during the Ministry of Trade and Industry's Committee of Supply Debate

“Partnering the Industry for Local Enterprises

to Emerge Stronger from COVID-19”

 

Introduction

1.      Mr Chairman, as Singapore settles into Phase 3 and vaccinations are underway, we seek to sustain the momentum for recovery and emerge stronger post-COVID-19. 

2.      Earlier, Minister Chan, 2M Tan and MOS Tan spoke about our forward-looking agenda and reiterated MTI’s commitment to help our enterprises emerge stronger from this crisis. Let me now elaborate on our near-term priorities ahead.  

3.      SMEs will continue to play a pivotal role in the recovery of our economy. They make up 99% of our companies and contribute 72% of employment.  

4.      To support the SMEs’ recovery and growth, we will strengthen our business eco-system in partnership with companies and trade associations and chambers (TACs).

5.      Let me share how the Government will co-create the future roadmap with SMEs and boost our support for digitalisation, as urged by Mr Shawn Huang and Ms Jessica Tan.  

Helping heartland enterprises go digital

6.      I meet with heartland merchants regularly. Several shopkeepers indicated their interest to go digital, and those who were online, were keen to do more. They asked for more resources and support to innovate. 

7.      This positive attitude and readiness to transform is commendable and we will pull out all stops to rally behind our SMEs and our heartland merchants. The flagship Heartlands Go Digital Programme provides specific support to help our heartland shops adopt e-payment solutions and get started on digital commerce.  

8.      This programme is led by the Heartland Digitalisation and Revitalisation Committee (HDRC) co-chaired by SMS Sim Ann and myself. Reflecting a collaborative, and most importantly, an enterprise-centric approach, the Committee comprises the Federation of Merchants’ Associations Singapore (FMAS), Heartland Enterprise Centre Singapore (HECS), and government agencies like ESG, STB, GovTech, IMDA, and HDB. The Committee aims to revitalise heartland shops with solutions ranging from visual merchandising in stores to local placemaking activities and digital marketing.

9.      To rev up the speed of adoption, close to 200 digital ambassadors and business advisors have been on the ground, reaching out to some 20,000 heartland enterprises. They share with the shopkeepers about the benefits of digitalisation and provide step-by-step guidance on how to go digital. As of February 2021, we have engaged more than 85% of these heartland shops and are on track to meet our target this month.

10.      Interestingly, over the last one year, we are seeing more second and third generation family heartland businesses leveraging available government programmes to transform their business by going digital. 

11.      Allow me to share one interesting example. Petite Blooms, a florist business in Teck Whye, run by a mother and son team, recently made the leap to e-payments because they wanted to capture the growing number of e-savvy customers. Today, within a short span of time, up to 25% of their sales use e-payments, and revenue has gone up 10% in the first three months of adopting e-payments. Petite Blooms is also now on Shopee. Thanks to the Heartlands Go Digital Programme, the shop has started to diversify its revenue streams and enhance its online visibility. 

12.      Mr Chairman, while we reposition our SMEs for growth through digitalisation and innovation, it is equally important to extend our support for capability development and cashflow management. Mr Derrick Goh and Mr Gerald Giam can be assured that we have many schemes and programmes that boost the productivity of SMEs and make them more competitive and attractive to Singaporeans.

13.      In particular, the Productivity Solutions Grant (PSG) that was introduced in 2018, continues to assist businesses in their transformation journey and provide them with support for IT solutions and equipment, as well as consultancy services.

14.      Since then, more than 19,000 SMEs have adopted IT solutions and equipment to get ahead. The top sectors for PSG adoption include Retail, Building and Construction, Wholesale Trade, Food Services, and Services.   

15.      To help more enterprises transform, we are extending PSG’s enhanced maximum support level of up to 80% till 31 March 2022. We hope this will encourage more SMEs to come onboard, transform and gear up for economic recovery. 

Assistance Through Enhanced SME Centres  

16.      The journey to transformation, though exciting, can be tough too. This is why we have 11 dedicated SME Centres providing assistance for SMEs islandwide. The centres’ onsite business advisors partner SMEs to guide them in their capability development and growth.

17.      Mr Shawn Huang, Mr Derrick Goh and Mr Desmond Choo will be delighted to know that SME Centres will begin piloting specialised advisory services to support enterprises in specific areas such as digitalisation and financing.a)    For example, when an SME wishes to expand but lacks the funds, the SME Centre’s Specialist Advisor will help to assess the company’s financial health, and recommend the appropriate financing model and available financing instruments. The Advisor then guides the business owner on how to strengthen his or her loan applications and links the SME up with relevant banks for the loan application.  

18      Last year, the SME Centres assisted over 32,000 SMEs, and more are expected to benefit from the new services. 

19.      So, we urge SMEs to tap the advice and resources available at our 11 SME Centres. We want to help SMEs to build up their capabilities and workforce, so they can raise their productivity and scale up their business.

20.      I would like to assure Mr Gerald Giam that the Government is constantly looking at how we can assist SMEs to attract more local talents. The Global Ready Talent Programme (GRT) helps SMEs and enterprises build up their talent pipeline by exposing more Singaporeans to internships and overseas work opportunities. This allows our SMEs to discover potential employees, and also provide our students with a better appreciation of our SMEs.

Improvements to GoBusiness Platform

21.      Mr Chairman, we share Ms Jessica Tan’s view that Government schemes should be streamlined and made more accessible to businesses. With easier and smoother government transactions, we hope business costs will be reduced. This is why we have rolled out GoBusiness Gov Assist, a portal that consolidates all available government assistance onto one platform. Since its launch last August, it has received over 230,000 unique visits. 

22.      This year, we will be introducing an online guided journey on the GoBusiness platform to help businesses start faster and start right. It will provide a step-by-step guide on how to set up a business, as well as recommend the suitable business structure, and suggest relevant resources. 

23.      In addition, the GoBusiness platform will have a function to assist our businesses to make checks or changes regarding premise use. This will allow companies to quickly identify the right governing authority and provide information on the approved uses of rental or purchased commercial premises. 

24.      While we gear up for an economic recovery, we are also mindful of the ongoing challenges in our economy. To navigate the uncertainties, we need all hands on deck. 

TACs leading their industry

25.      This is the time when our TACs are most needed to help their members overcome difficulties and capture new opportunities. In my recent engagements with the various TACs, I saw how they led their members to build core capabilities and pivot to other business models.a)    For example, the Singapore Furniture Industries Council’s (SFIC) 5th Membership Assistance Scheme (MAS) benefited over 70 companies with training, opportunities in design innovation and digital capability development. It has also introduced Creativ-Space, a new B2B e-sourcing and marketing platform that is first-of-its-kind in Asia. I graced the launch in October 2020 and saw how Creativ-Space helped 20 local brands, including Commune Lifestyle Pte Ltd, to break new ground and expand their reach to areas like Europe. I am delighted to hear that Commune Lifestyle’s e-commerce sales has doubled in the last 10 months.

Fostering greater collaboration 

26.      TACs also play an important role in facilitating greater collaborations between enterprises. We are aligned with Mr Edward Chia's views on supporting more business collaborations. Second Minister Tan See Leng had shared about how the Government will continue to support collaborative projects through schemes such as PACT. 

TAC Competency Framework

27.      Mr Edward Chia and Mr Derrick Goh will be pleased to know that the Government will work more closely with our industry partners such as the TACs to upgrade their core capabilities. As TACs continue to play their role of supporting industry transformation and business growth, they will have to attract, retain and develop the right talents. Recognising this need, a TAC Competency Framework, led by Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce & Industry (SCCCI), with support from Singapore Business Federation (SBF), ESG and SkillsFuture Singapore (SSG), will be developed.

28.      This is the first time a competency framework is being created for TACs. Developed in consultation with the TACs, the framework will identify existing gaps and relevant skills required by the TAC secretariats and their leaders. Suitable programmes will then be developed to upgrade and build the skills-sets of the TAC sector. 

29      This competency framework is expected to be ready in Q3 this year, and we strongly encourage our TACs to adopt it to upskill their staff. Mr Chairman, in Mandarin, please.

30.      主席先生,中小企业是我国经济的中流砥柱。中小企业占企业总数的百分之九十九并雇佣我国百分之七十二的劳动力。为更好地扶持中小、微型企业和促进经济的持续复苏,政府将推出以下三项新措施:

a)     首先,中小企业中心将扩展现有的服务范围,为企业提供融资和推进数码化的专项咨询服务;具体的来说,那些在融资方面有疑问的企业,现在可以咨询中小企业中心的专业融资顾问。他们可以为企业评估财务状况和推荐合适的贷款方案以及融资渠道。同样的,企业也可在数码化方面获得咨询顾问的专业意见。

b)     第二,我们将在GoBusiness平台推出两个新的功能。第一个功能是线上创业指南,指导创业者如何设立公司。从注册公司到获取相关营业执照等流程,一应俱全。第二个功能是线上查询商业场所许可用途。想要更换场地用途的业者可以通过GoBusiness 平台提交申请。这将简化和各政府部门的对接。

c)     第三,政府将支持由商会商团所主导的商团技能框架,协助商会和商团在吸引、保留以及培养人才方面事半功倍。这个框架有助于提升商会商团领导层和秘书处的核心能力,确保它们能更有效地支持企业的转型和发展。框架预计在今年第三季推出。

31.      政府为支持中小微型企业的持续发展,投入了许多的资源。贸工部希望企业能善加利用这些资源,积极转型、提高生产力,为自身未来的发展打下厚实的基础。

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Translation

 

30.      Mr Chairman, SMEs are a mainstay of our economy. They make up 99% of our companies and contribute 72% of employment. To better support small, medium and micro enterprises and promote sustained economic recovery, the government will introduce the following three measures:     

 

a)      Firstly, SME Centres will expand their offerings and begin piloting specialised advisory services to support enterprises in areas such as digitalisation and financing. For example, employers who wish to expand their business but face funding constraints can approach the SME Centres for assistance. The SME Centre’s Specialist Advisor will help to assess the financial health of the company, recommend the appropriate financing mode and available financing instruments. The Advisor will also guide employers on digitalising their businesses.

 

b)      Secondly, we will be introducing two new functions on the GoBusiness platform. The first function will be a step-by-step guide on how to set up a business, as well as recommendations on the suitable business structure, and suggestions on relevant resources. The GoBusiness platform will also have another function to assist businesses to make checks or changes regarding premise use. This will allow them to quickly identify the right governing authority and provide information on the approved uses of rental or purchased commercial premises.

 

c)      Thirdly, an industry-led TAC Competency Framework will be developed with the government’s support. As TACs continue to play their role of supporting industry transformation and business growth, such a competency framework will help to attract, retain and develop the right talent, while identifying existing gaps and relevant skills required by TAC secretariats and their leaders. This also ensures that our TACs can continue to support the transformation and development of our enterprises. The competency framework is expected to be ready in Q3 this year

 

31.      The government has invested significant resources to create a pro-business environment and to support the growth of our SMEs. We hope businesses can better utilise these resources to seize growth opportunities, transform their business model, raise productivity and emerge stronger.

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32.      Mr Chairman, in closing, there will be no return to a pre-COVID world and our enterprises must seize the initiative to transform their business models to secure the future. Rest assured that MTI, ESG and the various economic agencies will work hand-in-hand with our enterprises, TACs and industries to co-create, innovate and unlock new opportunities for growth.

 

33.      Together, we can overcome – as partners in solidarity forging a new tomorrow, where businesses, companies, SMEs and heartland shops will thrive and flourish.

 

 


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