Budget 2020, also loosely referred to as the "Covid-19 budget", saw enormous sums set aside to help businesses and in turn, workers.
To address pressing business concerns, $4 billion would be spent on several initiatives coupled with enhancements to some existing schemes.
These measures would help companies tide over near-term uncertainties caused by Covid-19. Sectors that took more direct economic hits such as tourism, retail, air transport, food services etc would receive additional help.
To help companies in the medium term, $8.3 billion would be spent over the next 3 years to aid in their transformation and growth.
But this begs the question - is it too little and too late?
SPEAKING UP FOR SMES
As part of the Budget Debate, Member of Parliament for Marine Parade and NTUC FairPrice CEO Mr Seah Kian Peng, shared his thoughts.
"For promising SMEs, the Government has announced that ESG [Enteprise Singapore] will launch an Enterprise Transform package with focus on leadership. It will also support business leaders of 900 SMEs over the next 3 years with training and mentorship."
"This is a much welcome move. "
"However, smaller SMEs might have issues understanding Government initiatives and programmes in English and so I suggest having such initiatives and programmes to be also translated into Mandarin, Malay and Tamil so that the wider business communities can understand and embark on such initiatives."
"The language gap requires another sort of translation. We need to make these schemes more accessible by showing SMEs how such government grants can help them. So they don't miss out on them."
Apart from suggesting that these initiatives be translated into other languages for SMEs to easily understand, he also pointed out some gaps.
GAP 1: JOB SUPPORT SCHEME ONLY PAYS OUT IN JULY
Time is of the essence for many SMEs whose business has been hit badly because of Covid-19 and receiving the Job Support Scheme payouts only in July 2020 does little to help mitigate immediate cash-flows issues these SMEs are facing.
GAP 2: NO ADDITIONAL ABSENTEE PAYROLL AND TRAINING COURSE SUBSIDIES
Using economic downtime as an opportunity for organisations to send their employees for training is a good idea. However, some SMEs that are already struggling with the business impact of Covid-19 might need extra subsidies.
GAP 3: NO FOREIGN WORKER LEVY WAIVER
There are several sectors such as retail and F&B that rely heavily on foreign manpower. These SMEs might need extra support such as foreign worker levy waivers.
While Budget 2020 has initiatives that offer significant help for businesses and workers, the Government also needs to be mindful of some SMEs that might fall through the cracks. Moving forward, there is a need to see how to make the initiatives more inclusive.
This article was first published in Singapore Business Owners.