Need to cut red tape more urgent now, says Chee Hong Tat

Helping businesses stay afloat by cutting red tape and regulatory barriers is even more urgent now thanks to the pandemic, said Senior Minister of State for Foreign Affairs and Transport Chee Hong Tat.

Mr Chee told an online discussion: “Even before Covid-19, the need to transform our economy to look for new ways of helping businesses reduce regulatory barriers, lower our regulatory costs, and to support new business models and new ways of doing things (was) relevant and valid.

“But with Covid-19, the impetus to do that has become even more significant and even more urgent, because we are now at a stage where we have to transform and we have to change in order to survive the crisis and to emerge stronger subsequently.”

He added that actions taken before the pandemic have also ended up being beneficial to firms, such as the shift from hard copy forms to digital filing and allowing companies to offer services online.

“Look for different innovative ways of regulating that can be more effective (in) achieving the same outcomes of safety and consumer protection while allowing businesses to have lower regulatory barriers and… licensing costs.”

By removing redundant steps and overlapping licences and making good use of technology, cost savings can be passed down to firms and consumers, he noted.

The Government also has to take risks in tweaking rules to support new business ideas, even if companies do not have a track record yet, said Mr Chee yesterday.

He was speaking at a dialogue with businesses and members of the Pro-Enterprise Panel, a private-public platform under the Ministry of Trade and Industry that comprises business leaders and senior government officials working towards reducing the regulatory burden on companies.

“If we are refusing to take that step forward and wanting to play 100 per cent safe, and not venture out of our comfort zone, then actually there’s no way to do this.”

He also noted that the Government has to be comfortable dealing with uncertainty, since the pace of change in the world has picked up.

“This is where I think we need to accelerate the reviews and find ways in which we can get feedback more quickly and be prepared to make some adjustments, including in areas where we have not tried, (such as) new business ideas, new sectors.”

Ms Low Yen Ling, the recently appointed Minister of State for Trade and Industry, and Culture, Community and Youth, told the event that agencies also have to take a more enterprise-centric approach to see how rules can be interpreted and then adhered to by companies.

TIME TO INNOVATE

Look for different innovative ways of regulating that can be more effective (in) achieving the same outcomes of safety and consumer protection while allowing businesses to have lower regulatory barriers and … licensing costs.

MR CHEE HONG TAT, Senior Minister of State for Foreign Affairs and Transport

“We also need to see how we can innovate our agencies… so that we can better support new business models and also new technology.”

The panel is partnering the Fair Tenancy Framework Industry Committee, which was formed in April to address issues between landlords and tenants, especially during this crisis.

The committee is made up of representatives from organisations such as the Singapore Business Federation Committee, Association of Small and Medium Enterprises and the Singapore Retailers Association.

The panel and committee will set up clinics for tenants to clarify their concerns.

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