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07 Feb 2020 Updated 07 Feb 2020

Enterprise projects last year to generate S$17 billion value added to Singapore economy; add 21,700 PMET jobs

The Straits Times Sue-Ann Tan

More than 11,000 businesses embarked on projects to raise productivity, innovate and go international last year, a 43 per cent increase compared with 2018.

The 13,560 projects started in 2019 by these enterprises are expected to generate an estimated $17.3 billion in value-added to the Singapore economy and create 21,700 professional, managerial, executive, technical (PMET) jobs in future.

Statutory board Enterprise Singapore (ESG) gave these figures at its year-in-review on Friday (Feb 7).

ESG chairman Peter Ong said: "The increase in both the number of enterprises and projects in 2019 over 2018 is very encouraging, considering that 2019 was a rather challenging year economically."

He cited the trade tensions that created uncertainty and slowdown especially in export oriented industries.

Despite these issues, 8,300 enterprises started productivity-and capability-upgrading projects, with over 60 per cent coming from the lifestyle, trade, transport and logistics sectors.

About 2,600 businesses also expanded overseas, with over half from the wholesale trade, professional services, information and communications technology and retail sectors.

To support this internationalisation effort, ESG provided assistance to 600 projects which are expected to bring about $8.8 billion of overseas sales and $8.9 billion of overseas investments.

It also co-organised 230 overseas missions, involving nearly 3,360 enterprises.

Mr Ong said: "We want to make internationalisation more accessible for more of our enterprised, as looking beyond our shores will be a key avenue to capture growth."

He added that South-east Asia continues to provide opportunities with a growing middle class and booming digital economy.

Over 500 firms also started on innovation projects.

Moving forward, Mr Ong said ESG will continue to help businesses invest in productivity, innovation and internationalisation despite challenges like the coronavirus.

"Domestically, business sentiments remain weak with companies citing challenges such as rising business and manpower costs," he noted.

"Current developments on the novel coronavirus are expected to impact our economy and businesses. The situation is fast evolving and no one knows how long this will last...Businesses are facing new pressures and uncertainties arising from demand curtailment, supply chain disruptions and travel dislocations."

He added that situations such as the coronavirus and geopolitical risks make it even more critical for enterprises to diversify their businesses and markets.

ESG chief executive Png Cheong Boon said the agency is also watching the coronavirus situation closely.

"Cash flow is a key concern and we encourage businesses to make use of the Enterprise Financing Scheme to help with their working capital."

The scheme helps small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to finance daily operational cashflow needs.

He noted that some firms, such as in logistics, have even seen drops of 60 to 70 per cent in business due to transport challenges in China. But supply chains have also shifted to other routes, benefiting others.

But he added that it is still important for SMEs to maintain their momentum in productivity upgrading, innovation and business transformation during this period.

"Only by doing so will they be able to compete locally and overseas, and better position themselves when the recovery comes."

Source: The Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Limited. Reproduced with permission.