DEPUTY Prime Minister and Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam has asked small businesses to improve productivity and reduce the reliance on foreign workers ("Tackle labour crunch with productivity push: Tharman"; last Saturday).
Having managed a small business for the past four years, I have found that my staff are needlessly diverted to handling transactions that could have been done more efficiently under a better working environment.
I have to make most payments by manual cheque. Just imagine the time taken to write, sign and mail a cheque; and for the other party to receive it and bank it in; and for the bank to clear it.
I was staggered to learn that about 78 million cheques were processed in 2009.
Most of these were payments made by small businesses.
I must also expend significant time submitting regular returns to the websites of the Central Provident Fund, the Manpower Ministry, the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority, the Singapore Armed Forces and other government or government-related agencies.
These online processes were created to reduce work for the government agencies but, unfortunately, cause the public to waste time on online submissions as a result of complicated and poorly designed websites.
Retrieving replies from the websites is also quite troublesome.
I have to read a page of instructions just to retrieve a reply from a website, when it could have been sent to me directly by e-mail.
The Infocomm Development Authority had announced the OneInbox project to allow members of the public to receive their replies from government agencies via a centralised website.
Why is this project taking such a long time to be implemented?
Several of my suggestions to the Pro-Enterprise Panel under the Ministry of Trade and Industry were attended to, but did not address the underlying problems.
The Government should look into these issues and improve the working environment for small businesses to operate more efficiently.