Singapore Budget 2012

February 16, 2012

With the Singapore Budget announcement just around the corner, I thought I’d share with you SICC’s work in gathering feedback and putting together our recommendations for the Singapore Budget.

SICC’s Budget Wish List Proposal is a key project undertaken by the Tax Committee each year, where the committee compiles a list of tax-related proposals and comments from members that SICC would want the Ministry of Finance (MOF) to consider for the Budget. Led by our Chairman Mr Shanker Iyer, the committee is made up of people from a wide range of industries, who have been working in this area with the Chamber for several years.

At this time of economic uncertainty, some challenges our members face include rising business costs and maintaining or increasing productivity. The key issue for Singapore now is to remain competitive and continue to add value to companies that are doing serious business here.

Following the submission of our Budget Wish List, the Chamber has been in extensive discussions with MOF to explain in detail the issues highlighted in the wish list. SICC has also been involved in a series of MOF-organized feedback sessions with the other chambers and industry leaders. Through these ongoing meetings, we feel that the Ministry is very interested to understand how companies are impacted by government policies and how Singapore’s competitiveness could be improved.

Shortly after the Budget announcement, SICC will be conducting an online survey among members to gather your views on the Budget, your business performance in 2011 and outlook for 2012. We hope you’ll participate in this survey.

You should have received our circular on SICC’s annual post-Budget Briefing on 14 March 2011. Please join us at this breakfast session where Mr Shanker Iyer will discuss in detail the tax changes announced in Budget 2012 and its possible impact and implications for you and your business.

Ms Selena Ling, Head of Treasury Research & Strategy at OCBC Bank, will also be present to share her views on the state of the economy.

In addition, these experts will be sharing their thoughts on the findings of the post-Budget survey that will be revealed during the session.

More details on the event are available here


SICC Members’ Survey Findings

July 18, 2011

I would like to thank all of you who took the time to complete the SICC membership survey.  We had a very fine response rate and have received many excellent recommendations and suggestions.

One of the key findings from the survey is that members would like SICC to organize a broader range of opportunities for members to network with each other and to meet with special guests, such as Ministers, heads of statutory boards, visiting CEOs, and other interesting speakers.  Members would also like us to be sure that many of our SME members participate in these sessions, and of course that our new members participate to ensure that both long-term and brand new members get to know each other.

Venues for such events are also important.  Members responding to the survey know that unique venues generate more interest and attract members to attend, thereby allowing everyone to meet with more people and discuss more interesting topics.

I hope these ideas are similar to your own thoughts.  But before we get started with sending out invitations and inviting guests, I need your help.

What sort of topics would you like us to focus on in the coming months?  What are the key substantive issues you would like to hear about from special guests or from other SICC members?  And, what kind of venues would you like to visit?

Please send me a note with your thoughts, ideas, and recommendations.  With your help, we can start to make the SICC even more useful and meaningful to you and to your company. We have created a new email – to receive your feedback and comments, rest assure that I will be checking that regularly!

SICC Members’ Survey

March 2, 2011

I’m sending this quick note to brief you on the important questions SICC is about to ask you. We have launched a members’ survey and you should have received an email circular from us.

Your reply is very important – not just for the Chamber, but most importantly for you and your company. SICC’s entire focus is to provide information, programs, services, and opportunities for you, as our member, to learn new things, to meet useful people, to explore operational problems, to share ideas with business colleagues, and to directly meet with key government officials.

But the only way we can do the right things for you, is for you to tell us what you want us to do. It has been too long since we last asked you what you want us to do for you and your company. Please take the time do so.

If you did not receive the circular but would like to participate in the survey, please drop us a note at

Adding to the incentives are a few nice lucky draw prizes. They include a Breitling watch, Resorts World Sentosa vouchers, and a Turkish Airlines business class ticket to Europe. We express our deepest thanks to C Melchers, Resorts World Sentosa and Turkish Airlines for their generous sponsorship.

Welcome to 2011!

January 17, 2011

A very Happy New Year to all our members.  I hope you found time over the holidays not only to relax with your families, but also to spend some quiet time thinking about business opportunities for the new year.  After the last three years of wild shifts in our economy and business outlooks, it looks like we are going to settle into a robust and positive business cycle for much of this year.

And in Singapore, one of the key areas for our attention is always the annual Singapore Budget announcement.  Over the past two years, in light of the very difficult and unusual market shifts, the Singapore government focused on developing major programs across the entire economy.  Programs like the Jobs Credit Scheme, the Risk Sharing Initiative, and the SPUR program.

But now, as the regional economy starts to return to a more “normal” looking behaviour, and as the Asian markets show great potential for growth, the Singapore government is returning its focus to some of the more detailed issues that were often overtaken in recent years by the global economic crisis.

As a result, we are very pleased to tell you that once again the SICC will be meeting with a wide range of government officials to discuss and advocate our members’ needs and desires to help grow their business operations in Singapore and across the entire region.

On 18 January, members of SICC’s Tax Sub-Committee, led by SICC’s First Deputy Chairman, Mr Shanker Iyer, will meet with senior representatives from the MOF.  This meeting will focus on the tax and financial operating issues of concern to SICC’s corporate members.

On 20 January, Mr Iyer will host a seminar with many of our members to bring them up-to-date on the current status of tax regulations.

On 21 January, the Government Parliamentary Panel chaired by MP Jessica Tan will discuss a broad set of issues from a wide range of companies.  I will represent the SICC at this program.

On 26 January, the Minister for Finance Mr Tharman Shanmugaratnam will host a discussion across a wide range of high level issues, and Mr Iyer and I will represent the Chamber members at this important session.

On 27 January, a similar session is likely to be held by the Permanent Secretaries of the Ministry of Trade and Industry, and again Mr Iyer and I will represent the Chamber members.

As in the past, I know these sessions will all be very productive and will engage the attendees in  wide ranging discussions.  In the end, we always find that many of the items discussed at these meetings result in positive actions either in the Minister’s budget statement or, after further  review, are covered by the ministry in coming months.

If you have any questions or suggestions, please feel free to drop me a note at

Technology Transfer Network

August 10, 2010

Welcome again to the rebirth of SICC’s “True North” note to all SICC members.  It is our intent to share important information and ideas among our members, and to keep you up-to-date on activities of the Chamber in a focused way.  I hope this note helps you identify some solid points of reference: “True North” if you will, that help you chart your company’s own strategy through the shifting issues you face in the marketplace.
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Last year, SICC signed an MOU with the Technology Transfer network (TTN) to create a platform for industries and research institutions to explore collaborations in innovation and technology transfer.  TTN is a collaborative alliance of Technology Transfer Organisations formed to enhance the effectiveness in the transfer of technology to the industry. The founding members of TTN are:

  • Exploit-Technologies of the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*Star)
  • Nanyang Technopreneurship Center, Nanyang Technological University
  • Nanyang Polytechnic
  • Ngee Ann Polytechnic
  • Republic Polytechnic
  • Singapore Management University
  • Singapore Polytechnic
  • Temasek Polytechnic

By partnering with TTN, SICC aims to:

  • Create opportunities for our members that are innovation-driven to tap on TTN’s expertise and resources to share best practices in technology transfer and research;
  • Gain insight into emerging technologies on a regular and coordinated basis;
  • Provide feedback on industry needs; and
  • Explore potential business ventures

In March, we organized an introductory seminar to inform members about the TTN, some of the R&D capabilities that the participating polytechnics can provide, as well as provide a networking opportunity for companies to establish networks of research partners, and provide feedback on their R&D needs to the institutions.

More recently, we have embarked on a series of visits to the R&D facilities of the TTN members, beginning with the 5 Centres of Innovation (COI) supported by SPRING Singapore as part of the Technology Innovation Program.

Our first visit was to Ngee Ann Polytechnic’s Environment & Water Technology COI.  Representatives from about 15 member companies visited the centre, and got to know more about the research focus and capabilities of this COI.  We saw examples of the unit’s work on:

  • Wastewater & wastewater technology
  • Waste management
  • Clean energy
  • Pollution control

Our second visit was with a group of members from the Hospitality industry when we went to Nanyang Polytechnic’s Electronics COI.  We toured the facilities and learned about the wide range of targeted and cost effective applications the COI has produced for many companies in Singapore, including many of the MNCs.  Our members were especially interested in exploring new technologies that can be deployed in the hospitality industry to help improve productivity.

Overall, I was very impressed with the breadth and depth of work that is being undertaken by these polytechnics.  They are producing practical and useful technology solutions for a wide range of companies in Singapore.  Their development intervals are short, their output is highly customised to the user, and the costs are very reasonable.  If you are looking for customised solutions to some of your operational issues, I strongly recommend you take a look at what some of these institutions can do for your company.

Moving forward, SICC will organize more such visits to the other COIs, and thereafter, depending on your interest and feedback, to other research centres of the TTN members.  If you would like to know about these trips or just learn more about the TTN, please send me a note at and we will get in touch with you to provide more information.

Economic Strategies Committee (ESC)

July 30, 2010

Welcome again to the rebirth of SICC’s “True North” note to all SICC members.  It is our intent to share important information and ideas among our members, and to keep you up-to-date on activities of the Chamber in a focused way.  I hope this note helps you identify some solid points of reference: “True North” if you will, that help you chart your company’s own strategy through the shifting issues you face in the marketplace.

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Last year, the SICC was deeply involved in the Singapore Government’s Economic Strategies Committee (ESC), which was chaired by Minister for Finance, Mr Tharman Shanmugaratnam.  Those of you who attended the SICC’s Annual General Meeting in May 2009 will remember the extensive private Q&A session the Minister held with our members as he was then just beginning to scope out the key areas of focus for the ESC.   During the rest of 2009, many SICC members (including several of our Board Members and myself) served on the various ESC committees.  It was truly an exhilarating experience for all of us.

One of the major conclusions of the ESC is the plan to attract larger, mid-sized companies to come to Singapore. As the growth in western economies has flattened, many successful, large regional companies are seriously looking to enter the rapidly expanding markets of Asia, such as China, India, Vietnam, and Indonesia.  But as you well know, establishing a new business in one of these countries is very complex.  Not only because of the language differences, but the basic issues of work ethics, employee practices, government regulations, partner agreements, tariffs, transportation, housing for home country executives and families, and a host of other concerns can simply devour a mid-sized company’s resources.  And of course, each of these target countries has its own, unique set of issues and challenges.  It has taken the giant MNCs many years and massive investment of resources to sort their way through these issues.

These hurdles can be an overwhelming challenge to a mid-sized foreign company.  But Singapore has a very attractive solution. By setting up a small, regional HQ operation in Singapore a mid-sized company can draw on skilled talent resident in Singapore – executives who have extensive experience in growth markets across Asia.  Nowhere else in Asia is there such a cultural mix of skilled business executives – different executives, with different cultural skills for each of the critical Asian markets.  A mid-sized company based in Singapore will pull together experienced teams to study and execute the best entry strategy into each targeted market.

To support this thrust, SICC is working with the EDB and SPRING to help “spread the word” to companies and to Chambers of Commerce in key overseas markets.  I will be attending a large conference of Chambers in the US next week to begin talks with key chambers and mid-sized companies.  Also, we expect most of these companies will want to talk with executives who are familiar with Singapore, so we may ask you if you would like to personally meet with some of these executives who visit Singapore, or if you have any colleagues “back home” who would enjoy talking with potential new Singapore residents.  Of course we hope many of these companies will join the SICC when they come to Singapore and you will have more new colleagues to meet at the Chamber.

I’ll keep you posted on this project of the coming months.  In the meantime, if you would like to know any more about it, please send me a note at


June 22, 2010

Congratulations!  You made it to SICC’s “True North” Blog.  I’m glad you found your way here, and I hope you find our starting notes both interesting and useful.  If you have any comments or suggestions, please let me know.  All you have to do is send me a note at  I promise to read it!

Welcome to the rebirth of SICC’s “True North” note to you, and to all the SICC members.  Some of you may remember that I started this letter on a monthly basis back in 2005 (but I will not tell you how long I managed to keep it going).

Our intent back then and continuing today is to share important information and ideas among our members and to keep you up-to-date on activities of the Chamber in a focused and concise way.   I hope this note helps you identify some solid points of reference: “True North” if you will, that help you chart your company’s own strategy through the shifting issues you face in the marketplace.

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My first item is directed to our most important member… and that of course is You.  It has been several years since SICC has taken an official survey of your needs and interests.  So we are now in the process of working with an expert firm to help us craft a simple, but effective survey.  We want to know what SICC can do to provide you with a higher level of service – focused on your needs and interests.  What do you like about the things we are doing today?  What new programs and services you would like to see us offer?  What kinds of people and businesses would you like to meet at the SICC?  Please think about how SICC can better serve you.  In about a month when the survey is ready, I hope you will tell us.  Thanks in advance for helping us serve you better.

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You may have noticed that over the past year SICC scaled back on the number of programs we offered you.  We felt it best to be conservative during the recession, so we limited our programs to those focused on helping you deal with the issues you were facing as markets softened all over the world.  We also lost a couple of staff members through regular attrition and decided not to replace them until the economy became more stable.  But now, we have added two new people to our team who will enhance our focus on developing valuable programs for you and your colleagues.

One of the key areas we are working on is a set of programs that focus on larger group interactions.  As the Singapore economy becomes more complex, the overlap of issues across different sectors is more critical than ever.  Instead of just sharing ideas and information among our regular industry committees, we will expand critical discussions across several industry sectors.  For example, one of these issues is the cost of energy in Singapore.

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A few of our members in the electronics sector recently told me they have found it difficult to obtain competitive bids from the electricity retailers in Singapore.  As we spoke to other members, we found that this situation is a growing concern across several industry sectors, and that issues related to the supply of natural gas have also become a serious problem.  As a result, SICC organized a session with the Chief Executive of the Singapore Energy Market Authority, which was attended by members from a wide range of industries.  We are now also working with the Singapore Chemical Industry Council, whose members have similar concerns.  The SICC members participating in this ongoing dialog are sharing information about the challenges and options they face and learning how other companies are dealing with similar issues.

To get some solid data on these issues we are sending a short survey to our members.  I hope you will be sure the right person in your company will reply to the survey so we can better represent your interests.  If you would like to know more, just drop me a note.

SICC will provide more opportunities like this across a broad range of industry sectors in coming months.

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But now, I’ll let you get back to work. Thanks for looking through our new True North blog.  Please let me know what you think of it, and I welcome your suggestions for other items you would like me to focus on in future postings.