1 Dec Business-friendliness of govt agencies slips a notch

PHOTO: 1 Dec Business-friendliness of govt agencies slips a notch
Above photo is the Minister of State for Trade and Industry Teo Ser Luck.

SINGAPORE - Government agencies here were a little less pro-enterprise this year than last year, an annual poll has indicated.

The Pro-Enterprise Ranking survey, carried out since 2004 to assess government agencies with regulatory functions on their business-friendliness, surveyed 26 agencies and came up with a Pro-Enterprise Index (PEI) of 71.7 - lower than last year's 74.8.

The survey found that the agencies fared well in areas such as clarity of rules and regulations and accessibility of e-government platforms, but needed to work on inter-agency cooperation and customer communications.

Although the overall PEI took a dip, some individual agencies shone. Taking pole position was the Maritime and Port Authority (MPA) with a Pro-Enterprise Ranking (PER) of 93.9, its highest ever.

Four other agencies had scores just behind it: Singapore Customs, the Central Provident Fund Board, the Singapore Land Authority and the Monetary Authority of Singapore.

Doing the survey commissioned by the Pro-Enterprise Panel (PEP) and the Singapore Business Federation (SBF) involved carrying out more than 4,000 telephone interviews with businesses which had interacted at least once with the 26 agencies in the past year.

These businesses were asked about the expectations and perceptions they had of these agencies in those encounters.

If agencies had both regulatory and industry-promotion functions, the survey, done between April and June, covered only their regulatory roles.

Each agency's score was computed from its aggregated scores in each of five equally-weighted areas - compliance cost, review of rules and regulations, transparency, customer responsiveness and pro-enterprise orientation.

The results were unveiled yesterday at the PEP-SBF Awards ceremony held over lunch at Orchard Hotel. It was the first time the SBF had come in on this.

Minister of State for Trade and Industry Teo Ser Luck said at the event: "We recognise that the business climate is now more challenging, and expectations from businesses are higher for government agencies to be responsive and helpful. We will review and address the feedback from the survey so we can continue to improve to serve businesses' needs."

He added that it was important that the supporting environment for businesses continue to be business-friendly.

"The pro-enterprise orientation of our regulations and policies that underpin our business environment must continue to be a priority. This is even more of an imperative during this period of transition," he said, referring to Singapore's shift towards innovative, productivity-driven growth.

He disclosed that the details of a government review of the areas in which SMEs need added help to stay competitive is likely to be released in the first quarter of next year, and said that the PEP played a key role as a bridge between government and the business community.

The PEP, supported by the Ministry of Trade and Industry, was conceived to ensure that the regulatory environment remained conducive to businesses.

MPA's chief executive Lam Yi Young, on his agency's coming out top, said: "MPA's close partnership with the industry and other partners is key in its efforts to develop and promote Singapore as a global hub port and international maritime centre... We'll continue to strengthen our ties and deepen collaboration with the industry and partners to ensure we offer a business-friendly environment to all maritime businesses."

Apart from the Pro-Enterprise accolade, awards were given out to recognise private-sector individuals and businesses for offering ideas on how to cut red tape and create an even more business-friendly environment here.

The agencies that have implemented these winning PEP suggestions also picked up awards for having improved on their respective regulatory regimes.