PSP’s Kayla Low raises concerns over local SMEs; calls Govt to prioritise them for the public sector as purchasers and contractors

Progress Singapore Party (PSP) has unveiled some fresh-faces during its third virtual Meet the People session via video conferencing tool Zoom on Thursday (11 June).

The online session called “MeetPSP 3”, featured the party’s Secretary-General Dr Tan Cheng Bock, Assistant Secretary-General Leong Mun Wai, Treasurer S. Nallakaruppan, Dr Ang Yong Guan, Brad Bowyer, Taufik Supan, and Kayla Low.

Among the new faces, Kayla Low introduced herself as a chartered accountant and a fellow member of the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA).

Ms Low said she is currently the group Chief Operating Officer (COO) and Chief Financial Officer (CFO) of 11 Singapore companies and four overseas companies in the retail, manufacturing, transportation and travel industries. She added that her company was awarded the SME 500 Award in March this year.

She also shared that the key policies she’s advocating for is job priority for Singaporeans, redevelopment of all old flats, and ensuring that public services are not designed to make a profit.

During the online session, Ms Low raised her concern regarding the problems faced by local small and medium enterprises (SME), emphasising that it is important to help these companies as 75 percent of SMEs hire locals.

First, she pointed out the loophole within the Government’s assistance to SMEs, saying that the Government assistance should be pumped directly to the SMEs rather than “have to pass on one hand to another hand”.

She elaborated, “For example, the rental [relief], instead going to directly to support the SME… they go through the landlord then pass down the property rebates to the SME, and which is not going to help [those businesses].”

This is difficult as 80 to 90 per cent of SMEs, which do not have a large cash flow in hand, will struggle to hold onto their businesses beyond two to three months, she says.

Noting that SMEs were told to apply for loan from banks to cope with the COVID-19 crisis, Ms Low said, “It’s not going to resolve the entire problem because [what] the SMEs need is income to sustain their overhead to employ Singaporeans.”

On top of paying off the loan, she reasoned that taking a loan from a bank takes time, more than three months to process, on top of the high interest rate that is at least 1.4 per cent and above. This puts a strain on local SMEs.

She also added that it will be very hard to apply for loan if there is “no professional accountant to help SMEs to manage the account.”

Therefore, she suggested that the Government should step in to help the local SMEs by prioritising them for the public sector as purchasers and contractors instead of multinational corporations (MNC) or Government-linked companies (GLC).

Touching on the Jobs Support Scheme (JSS), Ms Low claimed that not all companies are eligible to receive the 75 per cent wage support. As such, she recommended that the scheme be extended for a longer period so that SMEs or business owners can prepare for a long-term plan instead of worrying about what to do when the assistance is over.

“The government said that this pandemic, this crisis is going to last [till] the end of the year. Then why don’t should (sic) your JSS also extend to that period, end of the year…and allow the SME to plan forward rather than every month have to worry about the next month,” she noted.

Giving her take on the issue regarding foreigners competing with Singaporean PMETs (professionals, managers, executives and technicians) for jobs, Ms Low said that one solution is to impose a quota and levy for Employment Passes (EP) in order to reduce the number of foreign PMETs in the country. She also suggested tightening up the criteria for S Pass holders which is designed for technicians and engineering jobs.

In addition, she suggested that the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) should set a basic salary that is 10 or 20 per cent higher than that of a local hire if employers wanted to hire PMETs from abroad. With the higher basic salary, Ms Low argued that employers would then expect the foreign PMETs to have a higher qualification and longer work experience in the particular area they are hiring for.

She noted that the employer should also be required to post a 14-days jobs advertisement in the job banks for locals before hiring foreigners for EP and S Pass.

Wary that employers might abuse the system, she also recommended that employers be monitored for their job postings, with checks being done to ensure that they have really called in local candidates for job interviews before looking for foreign talent.

Ms Low also said the Government should assist employers, SMEs and business owners to tap into technology to reduce reliance on foreign workers, such as in the construction industry.

By bringing in the new technology in the construction sector and reducing the reliance on migrant workers, she said the country can hire Singaporeans to manage and operate these machineries in the construction sector.

“So, when we upskill the Singaporeans, then therefore we can ask for higher pay for Singaporeans,” she remarked.

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