Singapore—Businessman and Progress Singapore Party (PSP) member Kumaran Pillai will be part of the advisors of PSP’s Roundtable Discussion Spotlight: SMEs Speak. This online discussion is scheduled for Friday, June 19, from 8:00 to 9:00 in the evening, and is open to SME owners.
In announcing the roundtable discussion, PSP underlined how important small and medium businesses are to Singapore’s economy, as they make up 99 percent of all Singapore enterprises. Furthermore, SMEs also employ 70 percent of the labour force. “As the backbone of our economy, it is crucial that they receive the support that they need to thrive.”
Veteran political leader Dr Tan Cheng Bock, who is PSP’s Secretary-General, Leong Mun Wai, Yuen Kin Pheng, Dr Tan Meng Wah Choo Shaun Ming are also on the panel for Friday night’s roundtable discussion. SME owners interested in joining may do so here.
In a Facebook post on June 18, Mr Pillai wrote that he will be talking about the various challenges small and medium enterprises face across the different sectors and how they can overcome them.
The businessman identified the most difficult challenge SMEs face, which is, “the drastic fall in demand even as the economy is opening up.”
Mr Pillai added, “How can SMEs mitigate the risks? For some, it is fight or flight strategy and because the environment has changed so much, it’ll make sense to do a ‘cold reboot’ of the business due to the structural changes in the economy.”
One vital thing that SME’s can do is to consider “partnerships and regionalisation as a key strategy going forward.” This is important as it would “produce higher-value products and services and keep costs of production at optimal levels,” he added.
Mr Pillai wrote that he will be discussing the loss of jobs and the necessity of immediately re-training the local workforce through programmes such as apprenticeship.
In a recent Facebook post, Mr Pillai expressed concern over the government’s “ability to respond adequately given the enormity and the complexity of the problem,” noting that 200,000 jobs may be lost and that Singapore’s economy may contract by as much as seven percent.
Certain sectors of the economy are in trouble because of the pandemic, he pointed out, including tourism, event management, entertainment, and retail businesses.
“We are likely to see some layoffs in the coming days,” he added and questioned whether the S$93 billion in stimulus spending the government has allotted to aid Singaporean households and businesses as well as provide a much-needed boost to the economy is sufficient for recovery.
Mr Pillai then added his “two cents” regarding how he would address the problem, saying that the economic challenges must be viewed “comprehensively.”
First, Mr Pillai called for a “social safety net,” specifically for the most vulnerable individuals in the country. Simply put, the businessman wrote, “the government needs to provide support for individuals and families that are affected by the coronavirus recession.”
Secondly, there is a need to be proactive in the area of job creation. Once the sectors for new jobs have been identified, these must be promoted “aggressively” as well as be given sufficient funding.
Thirdly, Mr Pillai called for the growth of new markets both locally and abroad. While this may seem counter-intuitive at this point since efforts are being made to curb further Covid-19 outbreaks, this is not good for business, and therefore “we need to actively develop new digital channels to drive commerce,” he wrote.
Fourth, the businessman proposed the setting of goals such as 1,000 startups of S$1 million each. He added that if these firms create 10 new jobs, this would translate to 10,000 jobs and perhaps would even grow to become “sizeable SMEs in the region.”
Author’s note: Mr Pillai is the CEO of Apple Seed Venture Accelerator and the former editor of The Independent Singapore from 2013 up to earlier this year.