Singapore—After an estate walk at Anchorvale last weekend, Workers’ Party MP Jamus Lim (Sengkang GRC) took to Facebook to shine a light on the current problems of small business owners.
In a post on Sunday (Mar 28), Dr Lim, an associate professor of economics, wrote about an Anchorvale resident who is a small-business owner, who talked about the challenges she faces amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
“In particular, she felt that large government-linked firms were crowding out the limited opportunities she had exposure to, with strategies like bulk discounts or government procurement.”
The Sengkang MP wrote that he has “mixed feelings” about what the woman had told him, noting the fact that bigger companies are able to hire more workers “and sustaining employment through the pandemic is important for readying the economy for the eventual recovery.”
However, on the flip side, these large companies also have the advantage of greater resources “and possess the productivity buffers” to sustain them through the hardship of the pandemic.
And when large national firms endeavour to keep their businesses doing well “by expanding their domestic margins,” this appears to Dr Lim as “competing too directly with our local small and medium enterprises (SMEs), at a time when overall market demand is already down”.
He added that the Workers’ Party has continued to advocate for small businesses in Parliament.
Additionally, in last month’s Budget debate some Workers’ Party MPs suggested that Government-connected firms could link up with SMEs in expansion efforts in the region, “and in doing so, uplift them via knowledge and experience transfer”.
This would mean collaborating in the endeavour to conquer foreign markets instead of “cannibalising each other in competition over our small home market.”
Dr Lim went on to warn that endeavours to increase the productivity of SMEs would be unsuccessful if these companies “are not allowed room to shore up their bottom line during these challenging times”.
The resident he spoke to believed this as well, the MP wrote. “She said that the available grants were mostly about digitalisation, but these were largely irrelevant when she was having difficulty securing business and making rent.”
However, Dr Lim expressed the hope that more support would be given to SMEs beyond digitalisation financing projects.
“This would entail scaling up and making our business development programmes more proactive, and ensure that we target productivity improvements in non-tech/non-pharma sectors, too,” he added.
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