SINGAPORE: There is scope to help small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) take on more, or larger government projects, said Senior Minister of State for Finance Josephine Teo in Parliament on Friday during the Ministry of Finance’s Committee of Supply debate.
She also highlighted that changes are afoot to help increase the ease of doing business for SMEs.
SMEs have had good access to government procurement opportunities, with about 80 per cent of all government tenders valued at above S$70,000 last year awarded to SMEs, said Mrs Teo.
However, she added that there is scope to help SMEs -- in particular smaller ones -- take on more, or larger projects.
"In the IT and telecommunications sector, SMEs won 60 per cent of the tenders awarded, which collectively account for 40 per cent of total contract value,” said Mrs Teo.
“We intend to do more to focus our help to nurture Singapore tech startups in the IT sector, and at the same time achieve better outcomes for the government."
The government will also launch a procurement specialist track by this September as part of plans to professionalise the procurement function in the civil service.
Mandatory continuous training will also be introduced for the more than 2,000 procurement officers in the public service.
Moving on to the issue of tax incentives, Mrs Teo addressed concerns that the bar for qualifying for the Research & Development (R&D) Tax Deductions Scheme was set too high.
She said that a note that has been issued on the criteria as well as qualifying activities will be reviewed.
"We're working with tax agents and relevant economic agencies to review the R&D note to provide more helpful guidance to businesses. This new note will be ready by June,” said Mrs Teo.
There will also be upcoming changes that will increase the ease of doing business for SMEs.
Mrs Teo said that when the Companies Act is amended later this year, another 25,000 companies -- almost all SMEs -- will qualify for audit exemption, saving each firm several thousand dollars in audit fees. Currently, an estimated 200,000 companies enjoy audit exemption.
From early next year, the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (IRAS) will be able to process most Productivity and Innovation Credit (PIC) claims in two weeks, compared to the current three months.
There will also be less paperwork for SMEs applying for the PIC cash payouts. - CNA/ec
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