Why We Must #SayNo2Ivory

I still see ivory ornaments in shops, and quite often in homes of relatives. I suppose one could say these trinkets were beautiful items because when they were once worn naturally by their original owners, they were a magnificent ensemble of size, might and intelligence.

I want to help tell people that elephants MUST die in order to supply the ivory from their tusks. You don’t shear them off like you do wool from sheep. Poachers kill lots of these animals just for their tusks, and apparently in increasing numbers because of the increase in the number of affluent Asians and their appetite for what they think are luxury items.

Please pledge to never buy ivory at www.letelephantsbeelephants.org. And tell others.

Good Things Must Share: Budget 2014

Singapore Skyline (2013)

It’s been a while since the Budget was announced, and since then the only thing that seems to have continued echoing is this thing called the Pioneer Generation, and the size of their packages.

I’m not saying that my father’s generation – the one that built the republic’s foundations – doesn’t deserve the recognition or the reward that were supposed to come with it. But that’s not the point of the Budget for me.

Any national fiscal measure is a measure of the direction the Government wants the country to head towards. And for the most part, I agree with where it wants us to head: A high tech, high productivity economy.

There’s never been more money being poured into grants and rebates for productivity, innovation, and internationalisation. It’s easy to bandy these terms around, but the thought behind it is that we’re looking to look after the people that do the work.

This means measures to ensure we don’t over rely on cheap foreign labour again. I don’t like seeing companies that employ a whole bunch of foreign unskilled labour and deploy them higgledy piggledy just because they can afford to, and I’m happy cheap labour supply has been tightened, and that companies are finally looking to innovate to save costs.

As a small business owner, I’ve been witness to how rising costs have forced me to innovate and abandon old practices. Rising rental costs were killing me and my ability to retain a headcount – so off went the receptionist/admin staff, finance manager and other staff. I opted for a cloud based, paperless billing/accounting/time-costing system that I’ve subsequently become a reseller for.

I don’t have to have a finance or accounts clerk to chase late invoices because my cloud accounting system does that for me with increasingly curt emails (best thing ever). When clients call to ask questions about their file, I can answer their query almost anywhere thanks to my files being electronic and in the cloud. There’s no need to call up the office to get a staff member away from their tasks at hand to answer a simple question.

There are so many other options available that would make your existing staff’s lives easier, and encourage other potential job seekers to upgrade and train themselves so their jobs are multi-faceted, multi-skilled.

The fantastic thing in the Singapore context is the fact that all these things can be subsidised. Actually, subsidisation is an understatement. The Government is practically paying businesses to modernize.

Take the Productivity and Innovation Credit (PIC) for example. You get a 400% write off in your business’ tax returns (for businesses that employ 3 or more local staff), meaning if you buy a $1,000 computer, it is worth $4,000 in your tax returns, so you pay less in taxes.

But if you were making a loss, no worries – the scheme lets you get a cash rebate of 60% for your purchase. So if you were to buy a $1,000 computer, dis Gahmen GIVES YOU BACK $600!

DIS KIND OF LOBANG WHERE CAN FIND LIDDAT? SRSLY!

And if you think that’s like ZOMG WLE SIGN ME UP NAO, there is more money being thrown your way to make your company staff’s lives easier.

After getting an e2i Inclusive Growth Programme (IGP) discount of 50% off your productivity purchase, if you spend more than $5,000 in a qualifying period and you have claimed a PIC grant of 60%, you are eligible for a (taxable) additional cash grant of 100%. Confused? Nair mind.

Exempli gratia: You purchase $12,000 of several computers, machinery, and software that make your staff’s lives easier and more productive.
You get 50% e2i IGP discount and only spend $6,000.

You successfully claim a PIC cash payout of 60% or $3,600. THEN DIS GAHMEN WILL NOW GIVE YOU AN ADDITIONAL $6,000! OMGWTFBBQ DIS IS THE REAL GREAT SINGAPORE SALE!

Is this Budget serious about supporting SMEs and making lives of workers better? How about you read the previous five paragraphs to answer the question?

You’ve probably also heard about the increase in CPF contribution rates for the over 55s. There’s just not enough in workers’ CPFs to cover retirement necessities, partly because of how much older Singaporeans are when they do finally get married and have kids, and how much more our life expectancies have increased.

I’m glad dis gahmen is also implementing grants to cover the increase in employers’ contributions. Of course, thanks are in order to NTUC for pushing the idea of increasing employers’ contributions to the lawmakers.

There’s also other monies to tap on if you’re interested in improving workers’ skills – the Lifelong Learning and Continuing Education Fund has now been topped up to $4.6b. Again, these funds and schemes have been pushed by NTUC for several years now.

You can call it the happy circle of life – happy employees, productive company, better products, and happier customers. The ball is firmly in our court to put the money to good use – make your employees happier, more productive, more skilled and make your staff and your business continue to be the backbone of the Singapore economy.