New portal to help Singapore SMEs navigate government support schemes

A NEW business portal set to launch on Aug 11 will aid small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in navigating the numerous government support schemes available to help them seize new opportunities in the changed business environment.

Minister of State for the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) Low Yen Ling announced the upcoming launch at the SME Centre Conference 2020, which was held virtually for the first time with the theme "New Normal, New Opportunities".

She noted that while the government is committed to supporting SMEs in weathering the Covid-19 pandemic, SMEs have faced difficulties in navigating the suite of government support schemes to find the right ones for their needs.

Called GoBusiness Gov Assist, the portal will feature an e-Adviser that will suggest schemes best suited to a company's business needs, based on its answers to a short questionnaire. Companies can then book an appointment with a business adviser at one of the SME Centres via the portal to further discuss the results from the e-Adviser.

In addition, SMEs will be able to subscribe to government procurement notifications on the website, so they can stay abreast of the latest opportunities in this space.

The e-Adviser is part of the GoBusiness platform and similar to the GoBusiness Licensing Portal. It will be available 24/7 online, complementing the efforts of the 80 business advisers at the 11 SME Centres around the island.

Ms Low noted that the pandemic has brought about unprecedented changes in the business landscape and heavily affected micro enterprises and SMEs in Singapore. However, the same changes can be sources of opportunity for SMEs that are ready to meet them.

"To seize these rising opportunities, SMEs will certainly do well by strengthening capabilities in a few ways - upskilling their workers, digitalising operating systems, and developing new business models," she said.

"We understand that this may be more difficult than before, especially with Covid-19 constraints, and hence we want to give you the commitment that the government, MTI and our economic agencies will work hand-in-hand with the other ministries and agencies to ramp up more support for SMEs, from funding to expertise, rental subsidies and practical assistance."

Government support programmes available to SMEs include a 90 per cent risk-sharing scheme for loans supported by Enterprise Singapore (ESG) until March 2021, as well as the Productivity Solutions Grant (PSG) to help companies digitalise.

Ms Low shared that more than 10,600 enterprises took up about S$9.4 billion in loans through ESG's loan programmes from March to June this year, more than seven times the credit extended through the loan programmes in 2019. More than 80 per cent of these loans were taken up by micro and small enterprises with less than S$10 million in annual revenue.

As of July, the PSG programme has received more than 18,000 applications from SMEs seeking to digitalise their business processes, and at least 10,000 of the applications were for Covid-19 business continuity measures.