Singapore Budget 2016: good news for SMEs, but cost of S Pass for foreign workers rises

PM editorial | Date: 30 March 2016

Minister Heng Swee Keat’s first budget aims to ‘build a caring and resilient society’

Small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and the commercial property sector were the big winners in finance minister Heng Swee Keat’s Singapore Budget 2016.

Under the Industry Transformation Programme, S$4.5 billion has been designated to support industries and innovation, meaning a potential increase in demand for office and industrial space.

A rise in the corporate income tax rebate, from 30 per cent to 50 per cent, will be gratefully received by SMEs, as well as the availability of a S$300,000 loan.

One of the budget’s primary aims is “to build a caring and resilient society,” said Mr Heng. The S$25 million ‘Our Singapore Fund’ is a new charitable fund set up to support projects that share this aim.

There will also be a financial incentive for organisations to encourage their employees to volunteer at Institutions of Public Character (IPCs) between July 2016 and the end of 2018 – they will receive a 250 per cent tax deduction on all associated costs.

As expected, investment in learning and development scheme SkillsFuture will continue. “We will support our people through change, by enabling them to learn new skills, especially in new, fast growing sectors, and in facilitating employment and job-matching,” said Heng.

However, there will be an increase in the foreign workers levy for the services and construction industries and an increase across all sectors for the cost of the S Pass, the permit which allows foreign mid-level skilled staff to work in Singapore.

The National Robotics Programme, which helps with the cost of the increased use of robotics and automation in relevant sectors, received a S$450 million boost to provide robotic solutions to SMEs at affordable rates.

And if all the incentives and schemes from the Singaporean government are too much to keep track of, Heng confirmed that a web portal will be online later this year listing all the schemes on offer from various government agencies.