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Budget 2019: Govt to spend S$3.6 billion in next 3 years to help workers and SMEs

More support for workers and SME's including mandatory salary raises and other perks

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Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat announced in the Budget speech that the government will spend S$3.6 billion over the next 3 years on Singapore workers and small-medium enterprises (SMEs).

Highlighting that there was steady growth in 2018, Heng said that the economy grew by 3.2 per cent in 2018 – 0.4 per cent lower than the 3.6 per cent growth rate in 2017.

Noting increasing uncertainties in the international and regional stage, Heng said that global growth is expected to moderate in 2019.

The Minister further announced that all 23 Industry Transformation Maps he unveiled in Budget 2016 have been launched and that productivity in Singapore has grown by 3.6 per cent in the past three years.

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The productivity rate in the past three years is 2.0 per cent higher than the 1.6 per cent per annum from 2012-2015.

Heng then said that the Government will invest financial resources in workers and in offering greater support for start-ups and SMEs.

He added that Singapore expects to spend S$3.6 billion over the next three years to help workers.

Asserting that the strategy of supporting both companies and workers as “mutually reinforcing,” he added: “Stronger companies provide better jobs and pay for workers, and highly skilled workers make companies stronger.”

Touching on support for workers, Heng proudly noted that the percentage of residents in the labour force who went for training grew by 13 per cent between 2015-2018 and that more than 76,000 job seekers have found jobs through Adapt and Grow, in the past three years.

The Minister unveiled new Professional Conversion Programmes for workers and said that he is extending the Career Support Programme for another two years.

The Career Support Programme offers wage support for employers to employ mature, retrenched Singaporean workers.

He added that from April 2020 onwards, Enterprise Singapore’s Enterprise Development Grant will only support transformation efforts if employers include perks for workers, such as a salary rise.

As for support for start-ups and SMEs, Heng said that Enterprise Singapore will launch the Scale-up SG programme to help local firms to innovate, grow and internationalise.

The authorities will also pilot an Innovation Agents programme to connect firms to experts for advice on innovation opportunities.

In addition to the $400 million set aside since 2010 to invest in SMEs, alongside the private sector, the Government will pump in an additional S$100 million for an SME Co-Investment Fund III.

Further, the schemes Enterprise Singapore offers to aids SMEs will be streamlined into a single Enterprise Financing Scheme, from October 2019.

Heng is also extending the SME Working Capital Loan Scheme for another two years, until March 2021. This scheme will also come under the Enterprise Financing Scheme.

Heng also announced that the Government will take a risk on bank loans for young companies that have been incorporated for less than five years for up to a maximum of 70 per cent.

He added that the Government is incorporating a one-stop portal for firms to deal with Government agencies so they have a single point of contact and can make Government transactions easier.

This article is part of The Independent’s Budget 2019 coverage. Please send your feedback and enquiries to news@theindependent.sg.

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