SINGAPORE —About three in four small businesses in Singapore are satisfied with the relief measures provided by the government to cushion the impact of COVID-19, the highest across five Asean nations, according to a recent survey.
The level of satisfaction of the companies in Singapore was higher at 72 per cent, compared with the regional average of 58 per cent, the survey by UOB, Accenture and Dun & Bradstreet showed.
Vietnamese small businesses were the second most satisfied with their government’s relief measures at 68 per cent, followed by those in Malaysia at 61 per cent, Thailand at 47 per cent and Indonesia at 45 per cent.
Given that one in two small businesses across Asean are facing cash flow challenges as a result of the pandemic, the majority of respondents preferred cash flow-related support from their governments, the survey said.
In Singapore, almost half of the small businesses polled (48 per cent) felt that wage assistance was the most important government relief measure to help them tide over the COVID-19 situation. The respondents listed business transformation support as the second important item at 44 per cent, followed by loan assistance at 36 per cent.
In contrast, half of the companies in Asean preferred deferment of income tax, 46 per cent cited loan assistance, and 36 per cent wanted wage assistance.
Lawrence Loh, head of group business banking, UOB, said that as small businesses tap relief measures aimed at cashflow problems to ease their immediate challenges, other forms of government assistance could be used to help them emerge stronger post-COVID-19.
“In supporting our small business clients, we found that many of them are not only concerned with immediate challenges but also with exploring enterprising ways to protect the long term viability of their business,” Loh said.
The small businesses across the Asean countries were also polled about the top areas that governments can support to help them undergo digital transformation.
The respondents in Singapore want more investment in digital infrastructure to support innovation (71 per cent). Examples of digital infrastructure include national business databases for electronic know-your customer processes and nation-wide networks for electronic invoicing processes.
Other government initiatives that Singapore’s small businesses said would help include funding support to adopt digital technologies (63 per cent) and more education and training programmes to upskill employees, especially older workers (62 per cent).
The need for more digital infrastructure was also ranked as the top area of support cited by small businesses across Asean at 77 per cent.
The survey was conducted among 1,000 small businesses with annual turnover of S$20 million and below across Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. The poll was conducted before and during the pandemic in the third quarter of 2019 and in May 2020 respectively.