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Singapore firms’ Budget 2024 wishlist

Businesses are hoping the government will tackle AI adoption and upskilling.

Ahead of the Budget 2024 speech, Singapore firms from different sectors have laid out their Budget 2024 wishlist.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance Lawrence Wong will deliver Singapore’s 2024 Budget Statement in Parliament on Friday, 16 February, at 3:30 p.m.

The theme of this year’s budget speech is Building Our Shared Future Together.

“This Budget is the first instalment of the plans set out in the #ForwardSG roadmap. It is a Budget to keep Singapore moving forward, equip our citizens to realise their fullest potential and give more assurance to our families and seniors amidst a more troubled world,” Wong said in a social media post.

Below are commentaries from different sectors about the upcoming Budget 2024.

Fintech

Andrea Baronchelli, CEO and co-founder, Aspire

Singapore has always seen digitalisation as crucial for local businesses to stay competitive and cost-efficient amid rising business costs. We remain optimistic that the Budget will continue to provide support to local businesses financially, enabling them to accelerate technology adoption and nurture a digital-ready workforce through talent development and upskilling initiatives.

However, businesses with limited resources, particularly SMEs, would benefit greatly from adopting frontier technologies. Beyond financial and talent support, we hope that the Budget will also include initiatives that focus on guiding the effective adoption of technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), which has emerged as a critical driver of innovation and productivity for industries such as finance. By harnessing AI’s ability to analyse extensive volumes of data in near real-time, enabling data-driven decision-making as well as automated workflows, local businesses can transform their ways of working and thrive in a digital-first economy.

Kanv Pandit, Group Managing Director, APAC, Banking Solutions at FIS

The business environment is becoming increasingly challenging. High inflation and interest rates, access to credit, a shortage of talent, the need to digitalise, climate risk, and cybersecurity are just some of the reasons half of executives in Singapore believe they face more risk now than in the past, according to FIS’ Global Innovation Report.

No matter the sector, companies must mitigate these macro risks whilst still investing in their businesses to compete and grow. In the upcoming Singapore Budget, we hope to see more financial support to help firms achieve productivity gains and scale by implementing new technologies. This is especially as new innovations such as Generative AI are set to influence the way we live and work, and profoundly transform the workplace.

When thinking about talent of the future, those who can adapt and learn the fastest are going to be the most valuable contributors in the long term. While a college degree has its value, we are moving into a world where what one has built and created is going to be far more important. Companies will start to look for talent in non-traditional places to discover new skills.

Additionally, to meet the evolving needs of the market, companies have to invest in building a culture of continuous learning. This can be further supported by funding in the Budget to upskill and reskill employees. Building a long-term well-equipped workforce will help Singapore maintain its competitive position in the global economy.


Foodtech

James Petrie, CEO, Nourish Ingredients

As a pioneer in alternative proteins and food innovation, Singapore’s commitment to food security takes on even greater importance amid pressing concerns about climate change. The upcoming Budget presents a crucial opportunity to solidify the nation’s position further in the food tech space. Nurturing an environment that encourages cutting-edge technologies will address the escalating demand for sustainable food sources. 

We understand this means prioritising continued support for a robust food innovation ecosystem is important. This includes scaling production capabilities specifically to address demand for better-tasting plant-based proteins, the development of novel ingredients such as specialty fats, and supporting end-to-end processes such as precision fermentation and thermal processing. Additionally, Budget allocation of resources to support research, development, and production in the food tech space is essential for Singapore to maintain global leadership in this space and secure a more sustainable food system for generations to come.

Human Resources/EX

Charles Ferguson, General Manager, Asia Pacific , G-P    

Rising manpower costs are forcing a shift in the way businesses in Singapore operate. The traditional, geographically limited talent pool is giving way to an “everywhere workforce” accessible thanks to the transformative power of remote work and the digital economy. However, navigating this new landscape necessitates strategic investments and bold moves to remain competitive.

Programs like the Singapore Global Enterprises Initiative, which attract multinational companies and support their regional expansion, pave the way for expanded opportunities, offering avenues for Singaporeans to play a pivotal role in shaping a globally competitive workforce. Adopting an Employer of Record (EOR) solution further streamlines this process, allowing companies entering Singapore to onboard talent instantaneously, boosting agility and efficiency, whilst local talent gains access to international opportunities and diverse working experiences. Similarly, EOR experts help open doors for outward expansion; Singaporean companies can leverage these services to establish global operations with minimal fuss. 

The upcoming Budget is an opportunity to write a new chapter for Singapore's workforce, enabling organisations to invest in seamless access to global teams. Through robust support for companies navigating this new reality and cultivating a diverse and competitive talent pool in Singapore, we can ensure the country remains not just a dynamic business hub but a launch pad for a globally-minded future workforce.

Mao Gen Foo, Head of Southeast Asia at Qualtrics

During this time of significant societal and technological change, and with productivity and reskilling in the spotlight, Singapore’s future competitiveness hinges on the success of its people. There is a powerful relationship between enabling people to do their best work and national competitiveness, and that’s why this year’s budget should prioritise helping businesses and learning institutions to equip Singapore’s workers with the skills they need to be successful now and in the future.  

To meaningfully solve the productivity and reskilling challenge our country faces, the answer isn’t simply expecting more output from the workforce. Rather, the answer lies in understanding what workers need to be successful at work - from the tools and technologies they use through to workplace environment, culture, and values - and peoples’ comfort levels and readiness to use and engage with new technologies. With an in-depth understanding of where people in Singapore have unmet needs at work and life or where there’s points of friction, organisations can design and optimise their initiatives and programs for optimum impact and outcomes.

This deliberate and targeted focus on helping workers in Singapore be successful at work is critical to ensure the country continues to develop, attract, and retain talent and investments, strengthening its growing position as a global business and innovation hub.

Job van der Voort, Co-Founder and CEO, Remote

As we eagerly anticipate the unveiling of Budget 2024, businesses must embrace a forward-thinking mindset to boost Singapore's workforce productivity and competitiveness.

The Budget is expected to include incentives to upskill the workforce and encourage individuals to gain expertise in digitalisation and AI. This not only empowers workers but also contributes to a workforce well-prepared for tomorrow’s challenges. Concurrently, companies must invest in upgrading infrastructure to align with evolving workforce priorities. This involves embracing advanced technologies and fostering an environment conducive to continuous learning and adaptation. 

Work models must also evolve in tandem with shifting employee preferences, as many increasingly favour more flexible working arrangements. Remote and hybrid models aren't short-term solutions but rather, they’re now vital parts of modern business. In the years ahead, they’ll be an engine that can propel Singapore into a leadership position in the digital economy. Investing now in the adoption of various technologies – from digital collaboration tools to AI and machine learning – and embracing more flexible work structures will strategically position Singaporean businesses to remain agile, and competitive, and foster a more productive workforce. It also gives an edge to local businesses, positioning them to attract the best talents with much needed digital and tech skills. 

It’s not a question of if but when — by addressing the intersection of skill development, technological infrastructure, and flexible work arrangements, Singapore can forge a resilient and forward-looking workforce poised for success.

Cybersecurity

Johan Fantenberg, Principal Solutions Architect APJ, Ping Identity

Digitalisation has been a strategic imperative amongst Singapore’s businesses in recent years, empowering firms to raise productivity and drive top-line growth amid ongoing economic uncertainties. However, in the rush to digitalise, many businesses often overlook or de-prioritise critical aspects, such as cybersecurity.

The cybersecurity industry is tasked with constant evolution to overcome advancing threats. We foresee this trend will continue in 2024 in response to technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) which is increasingly leveraged by cybercriminals to launch more sophisticated cyberattacks.

We hope that Budget 2024 can provide targeted support aimed at strengthening the cybersecurity capabilities of local businesses, from large enterprises tasked with securing operations and employees across geographies, to small-to-medium enterprises that may not have dedicated security teams. Support should also extend to areas such as digital identity authentication. With more transactions taking place online, being able to accurately authenticate digital identities and prove individuals are who they claim to be, through passwordless login and/or digital wallets,  will be essential to build a foundation of trust between business and consumers and advance Singapore’s digital economy.

Wai Kit Cheah, Senior Director of APAC Products and Practices, Lumen Technologies

Adoption of new technologies like Cloud and AI are on the rise as businesses seek to maintain their competitive edge, a trend that is steadily increasing computing requirements. Besides contradicting sustainability goals, this has left many businesses struggling with the limitations posed by legacy systems, creating obstacles in digital transformation efforts.

We anticipate this to most significantly impact small and medium businesses (SMEs) due to the limited resources they typically have to work with. For Budget 2024, we look forward to increased levels of support to equip SMEs with the necessary skills or services to modernise their IT applications and infrastructure. This will empower them with the foundation to thrive in a digital-landscape, driving resilient growth and sustained competitiveness.

Beyond IT modernisation, Budget measures should also include raising awareness of cybersecurity risks. In the rush to digitalise, many businesses could end up prioritising speed over framework, creating gaps in their cybersecurity posture that puts them at risk of increasingly sophisticated cyberattacks. Amid a volatile threat landscape, investing into enhanced cybersecurity capabilities has become a strategic imperative. The most successful businesses will be those with the ability to simplify and secure their digital infrastructure with adequate security controls, minimising cyber risks.

Marketing

Dan Bognar, Vice President & Managing Director, JAPAC, HubSpot

We have arrived at a fascinating intersection where technologies like Artificial Intelligence (AI) have the potential to play a pivotal role in nation-building and catalyse economic resilience. We are already witnessing the way AI is helping enterprises make sense of growing volumes of data for better decision-making. AI is also  empowering SMEs to realise increased productivity as well as better compete with larger industry counterparts. The reality is that AI is well positioned to enhance future-readiness of our digital economy. Today, it creates an unprecedented opportunity for Singapore to cement its position as a global hub for innovation and growth. 

Beyond initiatives aimed at adoption of AI, the Budget should include targeted guidance for enterprises to streamline their technology platforms and data sources. As many organisations can attest to, a fragmented set of technology platforms, often a result of adopting multiple point solutions alongside legacy platforms, leads to disconnected systems that impede data and workflows. This has the impact of increasing overall operating costs, compromising the customer experience, and negatively impacting business outcomes. For instance, our research identifies disconnected systems as a major pain point for Singapore enterprises, negatively impacting marketing and sales outreach, thereby hampering customer acquisition and retention. With data being the fuel that powers AI, Singapore businesses must integrate, or better still, consolidate, their technology platforms to deliver connected data sets. This approach will become vital for unlocking AI’s potential.

As AI adoption increases, continued Government investment and support for initiatives aimed at upskilling and reskilling talent, such as the SkillsFuture programme, will also be essential for local businesses. As the digital economy grows, enterprises who are well equipped to understand AI’s potential, and able to move quickly to lay a robust foundation for its adoption, will stand to reap the most benefits.
 

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