Freezing foreign worker levies on SBF’s Budget 2015 wishlist

January 8, 20159:53 am330 views
Freezing foreign worker levies on SBF’s Budget 2015 wishlist
Freezing foreign worker levies on SBF's Budget 2015 wishlist

SINGAPORE: The Singapore Business Federation (SBF) has submitted a paper to the Government with its proposals on support for small- and medium-sized enterprises on Wednesday (Jan 7), ahead of Budget Day on Feb 23. Views were gathered from close to 1,000 industry players, and distilled into the 37-page report.

Business costs remain a key worry for companies, according to a 2014 survey by the SBF. 62 per cent of those polled cited it as the top concern, with 91 per cent saying they have been affected by economic restructuring.

One key gripe was foreign worker levies, which is seen as artificially inflating costs. Thus, the federation is calling for Budget 2015 measures to include holding back on planned increases in levies. It recommends that levies for S-Pass holders be removed since they are already subject to dependency ratio ceilings and minimum salary requirements.

Mr Lawrence Leow, chairman of the SME committee at the federation, said: “The Government’s original intention is to ensure that we do not pay Singaporeans a lower salary because we can tap on a cheaper source. Now these levies are no longer relevant, with Singaporeans at full employment. I am also not hearing that Singaporeans are being underpaid.”

To help businesses with restructuring costs, the federation has suggested a scheme to provide loans of up to S$3 million to SMEs for their transformation process. It is also suggesting that a single authority oversee the development of such enterprises across the whole-of-government.

While there is no need for such an authority, Mr Kurt Wee, chairman of an SME sub-committee in the federation, said that businesses would benefit from it. “It’s not so much that we must-have? I think it is a call for us to re-analyse whether there is a need for us to achieve better synergy and whether we can achieve more coherent support competencies.”

The SBF is also hoping that Government-linked companies will be encouraged to partner smaller players for overseas projects, a suggestion that the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SCCCI) also welcomes.

Mr Kuah Boon Wee, vice-chairman of the technology committee at the SCCCI, said: “How can we secure new new revenue opportunities, newer markets, maybe piggybacking on some of the bigger companies? All these represent, I think, key challenges we face. And we are hoping that the Government will recognise some of these challenges.”

The basic principle underlying the recommendations is a more holistic approach to develop smaller players. The recommendations also aim to keep the interests of local enterprises central in economic strategies across the board.


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