Big Four give tick to enterprise initiatives in Singapore 2019 budget

20 February 2019 3 min. read

The Singapore budget has landed for 2019, and the Big Four professional services firms have been quick to weigh in – giving their thumbs-up to a range of business development initiatives.

Singapore's Minister for Finance Heng Swee Keat has delivered the city-state’s ‘expansionary’ 2019 budget – aimed at building “a strong, united Singapore” – with a raise in GST from 7 to 9 percent, a ‘Bicentennial Bonus’ for lower income groups, and a S$1 billion package to help businesses build deep capabilities among the announcements. Following the budget release, the Big Four were quick to respond.

“As the Finance Minister promised, SG Budget 2019 is progressive and builds on the measures and initiatives put in place in the past couple years,” Deloitte Singapore and Southeast Asia Regional Managing Partner for Tax Low Hwee Chua said. “It continues the recent focus on driving enterprise innovation and growth; increasing productivity of Singaporean workers and strengthening the social framework.”

Following on from last year’s budget in which it was announced a tax would be levied on imported professional services from 2020, this year has seen a tightening on foreign worker ratios in the services sector – together with a number of new and expanded initiatives aimed at developing Singapore into a world-leading talent and innovation hub, including an extension of the state’s professional conversion programme, of which Deloitte is a consulting sector participant.Big Four give tick to enterprise initiatives in Singapore 2019 budget“The Finance Minister sees an external environment with continuing geopolitical uncertainty, a continuation of the digital revolution and slowing global growth,” PwC Global Tax Markets Leader Peter Le Huray said in summary. “The Budget response is a focus on security, particularly cyber security and a targeted approach to expediting digital skills and re-skilling the workforce with less reliance on foreign manpower.”

Among the enterprise initiatives, altogether worth S$1 billion, are two new customised programmes – Scale-up SG and Innovation Agents – to respectively help high-growth local firms to innovate, build new capabilities, and expand overseas and to provide other firms with mentorship and consultation on innovation opportunities from industry experts through a matching process. The government will also provide even greater support for enterprise and government digitisation efforts.

The response to the measures from the consulting sector has been widely positive, with Ernst & Young’s Head of Tax Services Soh Pui Ming stating; “Transformation is a journey, not a destination. Budget 2019 recognises this, and continues to provide support to help Singapore enterprises to deepen capabilities, innovate and internationalise in order to compete in the new global economy.”

Tay Hong Beng, KPMG Singapore’s Head of Tax, concludes; “In deepening enterprise capabilities, it’s important that the Government has recognised the need to provide and tailor-make support and assistance to businesses based on their differing stages of development and needs. This is a good departure from the traditional broad brush approach which may not meet the needs of businesses.”