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08 Feb 2019
Ministry of Manpower
Suggestion View - 268
Improve the grants scene in Singapore

The two cheating cases - a senior executive duping Spring Singapore and the SkillsFuture scam - sum up the dismal state of the grants landscape in Singapore (8 more charged in $40 million SkillsFuture fraud case, Jan 12; and Spring S'pore exec admits to duping agency of $155,000, Feb 1).

In rolling out a series of programmes and grants designed to help Singaporeans upskill and local businesses strengthen their capabilities, the Government has unfortunately bred grant officers who have never worked in the industry and therefore lack experience in evaluating whether there is true value-add as a result of the grant money spent.

This had also led to entrepreneurs whose key business strategy is to leverage government grants. For many of them, the outcomes do not need to be sustainable as the funding takes care of the costs.

As a result, despite the millions of dollars in grant money being dispensed over the years, our country's productivity and innovation needles have barely shifted, and Singapore companies continue to struggle internationally.

I propose the following:

 • Hire professionals, managers and executives with industry experience to be grant officers.

 •Ban former civil servants who were previously involved in grants from being consultants or helping Singaporeans and businesses apply for grants.

 •Businesses need customers to build up their skills, knowledge and experience. The Government needs to take the lead in directing their ministries and government-linked companies to adopt local vendors and help them develop capabilities.

In short, the free flow of government grants should be reined in with greater emphasis placed on true value-add.

Liu Fook Thim


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