More firms want support to expand overseas, lower foreign worker levies in Budget 2023: UOB survey


MORE businesses are looking for support to expand overseas and reduce foreign worker levies in Budget 2023 as compared with last year, according to the UOB Business (SME & Large Enterprises) Outlook Study 2023.

The bank’s findings were from an annual survey of 823 small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and large enterprises in Singapore, which polled them on their overall business sentiments, Budget 2023 and sustainability. The study was conducted from Dec 28, 2022 to Jan 10, 2023.

As the global economy embarks on a path towards recovery, businesses across the board require less support in Budget 2023 than in Budget 2022, the study noted. UOB’s 2022 survey was conducted across 800 businesses.

At the top of businesses’ wish list for Budget 2023 was the extension of the Job Support Scheme (45 per cent). This was followed by the extension of the wage credit scheme (35 per cent), as well as grants and funding for digital adoption (33 per cent).

These were the top three support measures businesses wanted to see for Budget 2022, though the result then was higher by 8 percentage points, 6 percentage points and 10 percentage points respectively.

With the global economy recovering, businesses intend to seek new markets abroad to scale their operations, the study noted. The number of businesses hoping for support for overseas expansion for Budget 2023 was up by 8 percentage points to 32 per cent, from 24 per cent in Budget 2022.

Meanwhile, the number of businesses hoping for a reduction in foreign worker levies was up by 10 percentage points at 30 per cent, as compared with 20 per cent in Budget 2022.

The study also found that a larger proportion of medium-sized businesses (41 per cent) want support for overseas expansion, as compared with small businesses (23 per cent). This was the same for the facilitation of export opportunities, with 31 per cent of medium-sized businesses hoping to see support in this area, as compared with 19 per cent of small businesses.

In addition, businesses are prioritising reducing costs, tapping new customer bases and reskilling or upskilling existing talent to capture growth opportunities in 2023, the study noted.

“With inflation remaining high, many businesses in Singapore are concerned about the downstream impact, including the rising cost of raw materials, as well as other operating expenses such as rent and utilities,” said Eric Lian, head of group commercial banking at UOB.

Sustainability is also taking on more focus for businesses this year. According to the study, 76 per cent of businesses polled view sustainability as being important to them, up from 60 per cent a year ago.