27 October 2016
Local SMEs could play a more active role in translating university research findings into commercially viable products. Photo: CUHK
Local SMEs could play a more active role in translating university research findings into commercially viable products. Photo: CUHK

SMEs in HK and Singapore screaming for help

Faced with the slowdown in China’s economic growth, a weaker renminbi and falling tourist arrivals, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Hong Kong are complaining about the lack of support from the government.

Meanwhile, Singapore is not immune to the deceleration of China’s economy, either.

Weighed down by weaker demand from China and a sluggish global market, the Lion City’s economy is expected to grow a meager 1-3 percent this year.

SMEs there are also demanding more help from their government.

In his policy address earlier this month, Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying mentioned China’s “One Belt, One Road” regional economic strategy more than 40 times, but “SMEs were not mentioned even once”, Albert Lau of the Hong Kong Small & Medium Enterprises General Association wrote in the Hong Kong Commercial Daily.

“It’s really disappointing.”

Support for technology startups was a big focus of Leung’s policy address, but the majority of SMEs are not in the tech sector and won’t benefit directly, Lau said.

He urged the government to engage SMEs in its plan to subsidize more university research projects that aim to translate academic findings into commercially viable products.

“There should be more exchanges between colleges and SMEs,” Lau wrote.

“SMEs can provide useful feedback regarding the functioning of products, market needs and cost considerations.”

In the meantime, Singaporean SMEs are also seeking more help from their government in the face of the most pessimistic growth projection in more than a decade.

Lower rent, training and access to funding top the wish lists of 550 respondents in a survey by the Institute of Singapore Chartered Accountants.

A rising number of small businesses are facing cash flow challenges as it takes longer to collect payments.

Projects are being cancelled and loan renewals are getting harder, Singapore Business Federation chief executive Ho Meng Kit was quoted as saying by the Straits Times newspaper.

Ho proposed working capital financing schemes and interest subsidies from the government.

Higher costs compared with those in Singapore’s neighbors are also putting pressure on its SMEs.

Kurt Wee, president of the Association of Small and Medium Enterprises, said the trade body is working with government agencies to offer a training program in how to regionalize a business.

“Part of the solution is getting our SMEs to regionalize and move into those markets, so that they can not only broaden their base and tap some of the lower costs but at the same time have a chance to serve a bigger market beyond Singapore’s shores,” Wee told Channel NewsAsia.

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EJ Insight writer

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