Q: What can SMEs expect in this coming budget?
Teo: I think we'll be trying to help businesses stay on track. and of course, we will still be encouraging them to do more productivity growth activities, and help them to restructure where possible. Some of the businesses might take a longer time to do so, some will take less (time), and some are just fighting for survival. We try our very best to come up with schemes and programmes to help them; not more schemes to confuse the matter, but If possible, to enhance the schemes and make it more accessible for them
Q: How can we make SMEs make the jump in productivity?
Teo: Productivity takes time. It has only been 3 years since we started, so it takes time. So once we implement, it will take time to reap the benefits. And the utilisation rate is going up, and we are staying on track. But if you implement it now, you won't be able to see the results until awhile later. So the earlier they do it, the better for them and for the economy, as well as the business sector. That is why we are encouraging them to have a sense of urgency to do so. But there will still be some, like I have mentioned, who are trying to survive and overcome some of the challenges.
We try to help where we can, but they have to help themselves first. We have come up with different schemes and we try to customise schemes for large ones, medium ones, small ones and micro-enterprises as well. So there are different tiers and different levels. Hopefully, there will be greater awareness about the schemes, and we want to expand the SME Centres to help them.
Q: Why are you stepping down as Action Community for Entrepreneurship (ACE) chairman?
Teo: I have always wanted the entrepreneurship landscape to be a bit more dynamic, free and allow more creativity and innovativeness. And I realise, if you look at the other cities - Israel or say, Silicon Valley - the government should play a lesser role but be supportive from the background. You just have to find the right timing. When you have found the right people, and the community has been built up by ACE over 10 years, I thought that it is the right time.
I realise that right now could be about the right time after 10 years of ACE. We've got a good group of people and entrepreneurs who are enthusiastic enough to take this on and shape it into a new ACE, and I'm quite excited about it. So the government resources and myself will continue to help champion it, so they they can continue to build up ground opportunites to help entrepreneurs.
Q: How is Michael Palmer and are you still helping out in Punggol East?
Teo: I'm helping out in Punggol East, developing programmes for them and trying to bring programmes to help some of the residents, especially the low-income and needy ones. For example, the Community Employment Programme where the needy and low-income are employed to do jobs within the community.
Michael has also given me very good advice, and I kept in touch with him.He has moved on but he is still very concerned about certain policies that affect the people so sometimes he shares his views.