Singapore firms want Budget to address rising business costs, wages: SBF

FACED with rising business costs and wages in a challenging operating environment, companies want those issues addressed in this year's Budget.

To that end, they are seeking tax relief and other business lifelines, with tax reductions and rebates topping their wishlists, according to the Singapore Business Federation's (SBF) latest annual survey of over 1,000 companies in Singapore.

About 87 per cent of the respondents were small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

"Budget requests this year are very much back to basics and reflect current needs of businesses," said SBF on Tuesday.

Some 64 per cent of respondents in the survey were concerned with increasing business costs, such as rental and raw materials. SBF also noted that increases in corporate taxes were a contributing factor.

In addition, more than half of respondents were worried about rising wages.

Already, manpower costs are at the top of businesses' list of challenges, advancing from sixth place in the previous year's survey. Nearly half of the companies said they are grappling with stricter manpower policies and regulations, such as cuts in the foreign worker quota. About 44 per cent of them also have trouble hiring from a limited pool of local high-skilled talent.

"These concerns are reflected in businesses' priorities for the Budget 2020," SBF said. "Many are seeking tax rebates to help upskill staff."

Corporate or personal income tax rate reductions as well as corporate tax rebates have therefore topped companies' Budget wishlists, going by the survey.

Firms also hope the government will promote and incentivise more industry-related training, and that government agencies will provide easier access to information and resources.

SBF will review the survey findings and release its own Budget wishlist next week.

The annual survey was conducted between August and October 2019, and participants comprised local and foreign-owned companies operating in Singapore.