Offset rising rental cost tops SME wish list

Seeking more support to offset rising rental cost takes top spot in the wish list of Singapore companies for the upcoming Budget 2013.

This is according to a survey finding by the Institute of Certified Public Accountants of Singapore (ICPAS).

While no official date for Singapore Budget has been announced yet, many companies are hoping that the government will hand out some goodies in this year’s budget.

Giving out cash grants to businesses, reviving the Jobs Credit Scheme and refining foreign worker policies are among the wish list.

Some 60 per cent of the 575 respondents in the ICPAS survey felt cash grants to Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) would be beneficial.

Forty-five per cent wish for the government to consider reviving the Jobs Credit Scheme which has been found useful in retaining jobs during bad economic times.

However, rising rental costs remains the top concern for most Singapore businesses.

Eighty-one per cent want measures to reduce or offset rental cost as their top wish list item.

Goh Ann Nee, chief financial officer at City Developments, said: “Rental is always the perpetual complaint. One has to really look at the fundamental cost with the last two years of land supply, the demand and capital raised by REITs.”

Panellists at the ICPAS pre-budget roundtable said businesses should look beyond costs.

Companies should also look towards staying relevant by building a global brand for their products and venture overseas.

For SMEs, their preferences are for direct assistance to alleviate business cost concerns and allow them to take off.

Low Cheong Kee, vice president of International Relations at Association of Small & Medium Enterprises, said: “We hope to have some rebates on rental that is paid and also maybe the foreign worker levy rebates.

Mr Low suggested that the rebates can be given back to the “companies that are proving to be productive or are training the foreign workers well”.

Apart from rising costs, some industries like the retail sector hope for a relaxation of the foreign worker quota as they could not find enough Singaporean workers.

R. Dhinakaran, managing director of Jay Gee Enterprises, said: “Retail industry is really now handicap without enough of manpower and therefore, the government has to give a kind of liberal policy for the retail industry. Foreign workers should be allowed to be engaged in the retail industry.”

Non-profit organisations are not spared from the brunt of rising operational costs, despite these organisations already receiving some subsidies.

National Volunteer & Philanthropy Centre’s chief executive officer Laurence Lien said: “Labour cost will increase, in fact, if you need to upgrade the profession, you need to increase the wages of the workers. Rental cost may or may not increase depending on whether you can get subsidised rental. Thankfully, many VWOs (voluntary Welfare Organisations) can get fairly low rental.”

The survey respondents said rising business costs will also put a strain on their financial standing and this can affect their plans to invest in automation and staff training to boost productivity.

Source : Channel NewsAsia – 9 Jan 2013

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