, Singapore

Singapore Budget 2019: SMEs' First Step in a Journey of a Thousand Miles

By Marc Leong

We are living in Industrial Revolution 4.0 where data have emerged as the new ‘growth fuel’, powering everything from productivity and profits to politics and dominance.

Budget 2019 is a relevant framework and direction from our Singapore leaders. The construct of our Budget encompasses the megatrends of the world. From the SMEs’ perspective, the relentless push of these agendas serves to nudge Singapore businesses towards survival and sustainability.

Singapore Budget 2019 is a small step in a journey of a thousand miles for SMEs which form 99% of Singapore enterprises. Looking at the packages offered to SME owners, there are three key agendas, namely retraining mid-career and matured workforce to master high-value industries and emerging technologies, assisting in business funding and spurring entrepreneurship as well as increasing productivity through digitalisation and automation.

The focus areas are in line with the recent discussion that took place at World Economic Forum in Davos – the world finance and economic models have been disrupted by powerful elements of technological innovation, consumer and social behaviour. According to a McKinsey & Company report, the adoption of technologies like machine learning and artificial intelligence is expected to generate trillions of dollars in World GDP from now till 2030.

We are at a turning point where adopting new technologies, digitalisation and robotic process automation (RPA) in SMEs is no longer a ‘nice-to-have’ but a ‘must-have’. Only then can the Singapore working population thrive and stay relevant. In my view, Singapore’s thriving open economy serves as a centre and an incubator of many of these intellectual and technology-driven initiatives.

The announced Budget initiatives will be helpful to elevate our local SMEs’ ability to compete effectively with the local and global competition. It is clear that Singapore aims to be at the forefront, and even the centre of excellence, for some of these emerging technologies.

When we factor in non-controllable challenges, such as an aging workforce, country and industrial level shifts in operating cost structure as well as competition from regional neighbours, the impetus of Singapore Budget 2019 is even clearer.

The concrete datelines announced for the tightening of Dependency Ratio Ceilings (DRCs) for the service sector is yet another effort to change enterprise behaviour and streamline business processes.

Notwithstanding global megatrends and its imminent disruption to our economy and way of life, Singaporeans and country leaders must accept and embrace these sweeping changes.

With a thriving and open economy in Singapore, there is every reason to believe we can continue to enjoy success if we hit the right note through sustaining high productivity and nurturing a qualified talent force to emerge as a strong economy in the new digital age. 

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