The coronavirus outbreak is sure to affect local businesses, but companies must keep upgrading their productivity and improving their capabilities so they will be ready when recovery comes, said Enterprise Singapore (ESG) chief executive Png Cheong Boon.
Mr Png, who was speaking at the statutory board's year-in-review discussion at Solaris in the Fusionopolis hub yesterday, noted that cash flow is a key concern, and encouraged businesses to make use of the Enterprise Financing Scheme to help with their working capital.
The scheme enables local companies to access financing more readily throughout various stages of growth.
ESG chairman Peter Ong noted that sentiment remains weak, with companies citing challenges such as rising business and labour costs.
Although the economy seemed to be recovering last year, the virus situation is a fast-evolving issue that will affect growth.
“In the meantime, businesses are facing new pressures and uncertainties arising from demand curtailment, supply chain disruptions and travel dislocations,” added Mr Ong.
He noted that Singapore's links with China are much more integrated now than in 2003 when the severe acute respiratory syndrome hit: “During this extended holiday period, shipping things in and out of China is definitely very difficult.”
Mr Png said some firms have seen very significant drops in business, such as logistics companies whose business has fallen by 60 to 70 per cent because of transport challenges in China.
But supply chains can also shift to alternative areas and benefit others along those new routes, he added.
“Generally, businesses are dealing with this in a calm manner, and we are comforted in this context,” said Mr Png.
Both Mr Ong and Mr Png agreed that businesses must sustain their innovation and productivity drives even during this trying period.
“Only by doing so will they be able to compete locally and overseas, and better position themselves when the recovery comes,” Mr Png said.