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Continued job support tops Budget wish list for SMEs: UOB survey

Singapore SMEs' Budget 2021 wishlist. (Source: UOB)
Singapore SMEs' Budget 2021 wishlist. (Source: UOB)

SINGAPORE — Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Singapore want continued financial support from Budget 2021 to help them retain their employees while they continue to build back their businesses, according to a survey.

More than half of SMEs want the Job Support Scheme (JSS) and the Wage Credit Scheme (WCS) to be extended in 2021, the UOB SME Outlook 2021 Study released on Wednesday (10 February) revealed. About a third of the SMEs polled said they had applied for the JSS and the WCS in 2020.

Companies in the wholesale trade, real estate and hospitality sectors, which continued to be impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, were more keen for government assistance to protect jobs, the survey showed. In contrast, SMEs in sectors such as manufacturing and professional services, which are already posting growth, show stronger preferences for industry partnerships.

Smaller SMEs with turnover of less than S$10 million stressed a greater need for financial support to ease short-term cash flow issues. At the top of their Budget 2021 wish list were tax incentives, easier access to funding and grants, and assistance to apply for such grants and schemes.

Larger SMEs with turnover of between S$10 million and S$100 million have a longer-term view in their wish list items. Their top three requests were for more public and private collaboration opportunities, easier access to funding and grants, and collateral-free loans for business transformation.

Smaller SMEs have a less optimistic outlook for their businesses in 2021 relative to larger SMEs. Half of smaller SMEs have a positive outlook for this year, compared with three out of five for their larger peers.

“Given the pressures on revenue that many SMEs in Singapore faced during Singapore’s Circuit Breaker period and subsequent gradual reopening of the economy, it is not surprising that they are seeking support to ease the pressures on their margins,” Eric Tham, UOB's head of group commercial banking, said.

The study shows a continued need to support these businesses in their road to recovery, so they can retain their employees, boost long-term resiliency and capture growth opportunities, Tham added.

A total of 20,000 smaller SMEs received help from UOB to apply for government reliefs, grants and funding last year, and the number of small business loans provided rose by more than 1.5 times year on year, Lawrence Loh, UOB's head of group business banking, said.

The survey was conducted from late November 2020 to early December 2020 among 782 local SMEs with revenue of less than S$100 million.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance Heng Swee Keat, will deliver the 2021 Budget Statement at 3pm on 16 February in Parliament.

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