SMEs still plagued by manpower issues and high cost of doing business in Singapore: DBS poll

Eight in ten Small & Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in Singapore expect more business incentives to be announced at the Budget 2019, according to a dipstick poll conducted by DBS. 

Citing challenges such as manpower issues, high operational costs and growing business revenue, SMEs are facing a difficult economic environment. They are looking to the government to give them a leg-up in supporting their business growth this year, DBS said in a press release. 

While the companies continue to grapple with manpower challenges such as hiring the right people and retaining employees, four in five SMEs said their employees are now equipped with the right skills for the job. The government’s SkillsFuture efforts are also paying off as nine in ten SMEs polled said that they now have access to affordable training programmes. 

“Many of our SMEs customers have channelled resources to upskilling their employees so that they can improve their overall productivity and efficiency. The benefits reaped are plentiful, and they can now focus their efforts on other parts of their business, such as growing their revenue and expanding overseas,” said Joyce Tee, Group Head of SME Banking, DBS Bank. 

Photo: Connected to India
Photo: Connected to India

According to the poll, SMEs are now focused on maintaining/growing market share, growing their business revenue, and developing their digital business capabilities.

Despite global trade uncertainties looming, 18 percent of SMEs polled are looking to expand overseas this year. However, 55 percent of SMEs cited the lack of market knowledge and understanding of regulatory requirements as the main challenges of overseas expansion. A quarter said that they could not find the right partner to collaborate with. 

With these challenges ahead, seven in 10 SMEs are turning to government agencies for advice. 27 percent are seeking guidance on partnerships and business grants, 24percent on internationalisation and scaling up their business and 19 percent are looking forward to receiving assistance on tax-related matters. “Even though smaller businesses typically require more assistance in weathering storms, innovation, nimbleness and the ability to adapt to change quickly will enable SMEs to thrive in uncertain times,” said Tee.