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Budget 2017 short-term measures 'disappointing': Business associations

SINGAPORE — At least two trade associations have expressed their disappointment at this year’s Budget, for falling short on short term measures to help businesses tide through the current challenging environment.

SINGAPORE — At least two trade associations have expressed their disappointment at this year’s Budget, for falling short on short term measures to help businesses tide through the current challenging environment.

Citing the “inadequate short term support to lower business and compliance costs”, the Singapore Business Federation (SBF) called the Budget “underwhelming”, although it welcomed the medium to long-term measures to support internationalisation, innovation and development of digital capabilities.

“The deferment of foreign worker levies by one year for only the marine and process sectors should have been extended across other sectors which are still experiencing cost challenges,” the SBF said in a media release hours after the Budget statement was delivered by Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat on Monday afternoon (Feb 20).

Pointing out that the business community has “repeatedly conveyed their concerns on rising business costs through various platforms”, the SBF,  which represents 24,200 companies, as well as key local and foreign business chambers, also noted  there were no measures on rental rebates for businesses.

Said Mr Teo Siong Seng, chairman of SBF: “This year’s Budget on the short-term measures to help businesses fall short of our expectations. However, we are confident that the Government is monitoring the situation very closely and will respond accordingly when the need arises.”

Mr Lawrence Leow, chairman of the SBF-led Small and Medium Enterprise Committee added that the business community requires “immediate stimulus”. “We hope to see more details shared at the Committee of Supply debate,” he said. ss

In a separate statement, Mr Thomas Chua, president of the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said the Budget was “aligned with the Committee for Future Economy recommendations for the medium and longer term”.

But businesses are concerned with the impact on their business costs, especially with the immediate increase of diesel tax, and soon, water prices. “Businesses, especially SMEs, who are facing challenges are disappointed that there are not enough near-term measures to help them,” Mr Chua said. 

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