Singaporean businesses among the world's most optimistic

PHOTO: Singaporean businesses among the world's most optimistic

SINGAPORE - Global business confidence is returning, according to a new study published by business management software company Sage.

The Sage Business Index takes into account the survey responses of over 11,000 small and medium sized businesses in 17 countries across the world. Results showed that businesses are now more confident than they have been for three years.

All global scores recorded this year were at their highest since the Business Index began in February 2011, suggesting that business confidence is recovering rapidly following the worst of the global economic crisis.

Singaporean businesses were among the most confident of all countries surveyed. In Singapore, local businesses were most confident about business prospects, scoring 66.96 out of 100, an increase of 6.98 points from last year.

Confidence in the Singapore economy also scored high at 61.63, which is an increase of 7.75 points from last year. Singaporeans awee also the most optimistic of all countries surveyed about the global economy (55.15, up from 45.12 in 2012).

The Sage Business Index also found that in the new climate of economic confidence, business decision-makers identified risk-taking as key to growth. Nearly half (44 per cent) of Singaporean business leaders surveyed described themselves as risk takers, with 84 per cent saying they did so because they feel they need to take risks to succeed. Only 27 per cent of Singaporean business decision-makers described themselves as risk averse.

A quarter of businesses in Singapore considered their key business priority to be reducing operating costs - compared to just 9 per cent of businesses who say this globally. A quarter of businesses  say that attracting and retaining the right employees is the biggest challenge for growing businesses. In line with this, a third (33 per cent) think that the lack of a skilled workforce to recruit from is the largest obstacle to doing business in Singapore.

In spite of greater optimism, most businesses feel that banks and governments are behind the curve and are failing to make the most of increased business confidence. More than half (56 per cent) agreed that banks were not doing enough to make funding available to small businesses and a similar proportion (47 per cent) felt that governments needed to put more pressure on banks to lend. Due to this perceived lack of support from banks and government, two-thirds (68 per cent) of businesses agreed that they need to look at alternative funding sources.

However, Singaporean attitudes to peer-to-peer or crowd funding are quite ambivalent, with 37 per cent saying they were neither positive nor negative about it. One-in-three (33 per cent) said that this would make a good alternative to banks and other traditional lenders, although it wouldn't be their first option; and a quarter (25 per cent) don't know enough about it, but remain open to using it.

SUMMARY OF GLOBAL STATISTICS

UK businesses are increasingly confident about their own prospects (62.55, up from 58.46 in 2012). Business confidence in the UK is also higher than in all of the Eurozone countries, including France, Portugal, Spain and even Germany. A total of 47 per cent of business leaders describe themselves as 'risk-takers', with 73 per cent saying risk is necessary to succeed.

In Brazil, business decision-makers are more willing to take risk to succeed in business. Over half 56 per cent of Brazilian respondents describe themselves as risk-taking - more than any other market and twice the number who describe themselves as risk-averse 24 per cent.

 UK businesses described themselves as among the most risk-averse (39 per cent versus 32 per cent globally). Austrians are the least likely to take risks, with nearly half 48 per cent describing themselves as risk averse. 57 per cent of small businesses agree they need to look to alternative sources of funding but only 42 per cent feel positive about peer-to-peer funding.

Banks aren't doing enough to make funding available to small business, according to 69 per cent of business leaders.

Governments need to do more to support small businesses, with 63 per cent agreeing they should put greater pressure on banks to lend.