Business Sentiments of Local Companies (January to March 2024)

- All Industries -  |  26 Apr 2024

Economic outlook brightens in January to March 2024; business sentiments show improvement despite challenges

Infographics can be found at the end of the article.

 

Singapore’s first-quarter economic growth in 2024 fell short of expectations, primarily due to a slowdown in manufacturing. Nevertheless, economists maintain a positive outlook.

Singapore’s economic growth hinges on two primary factors: the cessation of global interest rate hikes and a rebound in goods exports, driven by a robust semiconductor market. Inflation is forecasted to ease to three percent in 2024 and 2.2 percent in 2025, attributed to factors such as increased housing supply, lower oil prices, and stabilised food costs.

These projections are in line with the Monetary Authority of Singapore’s (MAS) estimations, which foresee inflation hovering between 2.5 percent and 3.5 percent for 2024, down from the average core inflation rate of 4.2 percent in 2023. This suggests a slight decrease in inflation, indicating a more stable economic environment.

Separately, the World Bank issues a cautionary note on the performance of Asian economies, indicating an anticipated slowdown to 4.5 percent growth in 2024, compared to 5.1 percent recorded the previous year. This deceleration is attributed to various factors, including high debt levels, trade barriers, and policy uncertainties.

Despite this slowdown, Asia’s growth still outpaces the global average. The prospect of a rebound in global trade and the relaxation of interest rates offers some semblance of hope amidst the challenges. Thus, it is crucial for businesses in Singapore to closely monitor regional economic developments and adopt appropriate measures to mitigate the impact of the slowdown.

READ MORE: Strategies for Singapore Businesses to Thrive in the Face of Workforce and Inflation Challenges

IndSights Research found that Singapore companies expressed cautious optimism as the business environment slowly improves. While there is a slight upward trend in both economic and industry sentiments, significant growth may not be immediate.

More companies are experiencing revenue growth. Additionally, companies are also anticipating manpower and hiring needs to remain stable for the next quarter.

 

Singapore companies feel optimistic as business environment shows gradual improvement

Singapore businesses note a consistent improvement in current and anticipated economic conditions. Positive sentiments towards the Singapore economy rose to 14 percent between January and March 2024. Similarly, sentiments regarding the future economic outlook improved from a net balance of -10 percent to -3 percent.

Bar chart showing sentiments on current economic outlook, from January to March 2024
Fig 1. Current economic outlook, in the period of January to March 2024, stands at a net balance score of 14%

Although industry sentiments remain largely pessimistic, they have shown a slight improvement and remained consistent.

Bar chart showing sentiments on current industry outlook, from January to March 2024
Fig 2. Current industry outlook, in the period of January to March 2024, stands at a net balance score of -14%

READ MORE: Business Sentiment Survey Findings Oct-Dec 2023

 

More companies achieving revenue growth; manpower needs to remain stable

In the first quarter of 2024, a noteworthy number of companies saw an increase in revenue. Looking ahead, businesses are optimistic about further revenue growth in the subsequent quarter. Companies were also anticipating manpower to remain consistent.

According to the Ministry of Manpower (MOM), nearly a third of Singaporean employers plan to raise wages in the first quarter of 2024, up from 18 percent in September 2023. Additionally, approximately 47.7 percent of firms intend to hire, reflecting improved business sentiments aligned with forecasted economic growth. However, ongoing global challenges persist, prompting continued business restructuring and the possibility of retrenchments.

PARTICIPATE NOW: Share with us your thoughts on manpower and revenue growth in our latest Business Sentiment Survey

 

Streamlining remains a cornerstone of strategy for Singapore businesses

Over the past five quarters, Singaporean businesses have consistently prioritised streamlining their operations, reflecting their commitment to enhancing efficiency and potentially reducing costs amid uncertain economic conditions. Concurrently, there is a focus on strengthening employees’ skills and expanding business locally to sustain growth.

Despite these efforts, rising costs (79 percent) and economic uncertainties (48 percent) persist as ongoing challenges for Singaporean businesses. The need for innovative strategies (41 percent) is also emphasised, given the increasingly complex and competitive business landscape.

Top 3 business challenges are rising business costs, uncertain or unfavourable economic factors and finding new and innovative ways to grow the business
Top 3 business challenges

These challenges were further emphasised during the Budget 2024 announcement in February. The global trend of high benchmark interest rates has escalated operating costs, particularly in securing working capital loans. However, with Singapore implementing measures to alleviate businesses’ financial burdens and achieve long term economic goals, companies are inclined to streamline their operations and enhance efficiency to remain competitive in the market.

At IndSights Research’s inaugural Business Leaders Forum, the prevailing viewpoint was that hindrances to growth should be viewed not as obstacles but as openings for advancement. Panelists highlighted the importance of leveraging government schemes, integrating emerging technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) into business operations, and pursuing internationalisation efforts to unlock growth potential.

Furthermore, connecting with like-minded businesses can be useful in fostering collaboration, sharing insights, and exploring synergies that can propel collective growth and innovation agendas.

LET’S CHAT: If you would like to contribute and share your business experiences, challenges and suggestions, we would love to hear from you. Please contact moses.ku@indsights.sg so that we can make the arrangements with you.

 

Maximising government support is a blueprint for business resilience

are facing a world that is increasingly brittle, anxious, non-linear, and incomprehensible (BANI), necessitating agile, flexible, and responsive strategies for success. The relevance of the BANI framework in the current economic landscape was also emphasised in IndSights Research’s inaugural business forum.

The panel also highlighted the challenge of continued inflation, which is putting pressure on businesses, leading to strong wage growth and strained manpower budgets, making effective expense management crucial.

In response to the competitive pressures of the current market landscape, the Singapore government introduced several support schemes as part of Budget 2024, aimed at empowering businesses in their transformation journeys. and effectively navigating these economic trends are paramount for businesses aiming to ensure long-term sustainability and success.

During Budget 2024, certain measures, like the Enterprise Financing Scheme, will be improved to assist Singaporean companies with their financing needs in seven areas, including green growth projects, fixed asset loans, and venture debt loans.

Furthermore, to develop more Singaporean global leaders, EDB will launch the Global Business Leaders Programme (GBLP), providing middle to senior managers with opportunities for development and exposure to global business practices. Additionally, Singapore companies with overseas expansion plans will receive financial support under the new Overseas Markets Immersion Programme, allowing mid-career hires or existing employees to benefit from on-the-job, in-market training for global or regional roles.

READ MORE: Government schemes, grants and other business support

 

About the study

Our Business Sentiment Survey was conducted from January to March 2024 with 1,539 business leaders from 23 industries: Environmental Services, Food Services, Logistics, Retail, Information & Communications, Security, Wholesale Trade, Real Estate, Air Transport, Land Transport, Sea Transport, Hotels, Construction, Financial Services, Professional Services, Food Manufacturing, Healthcare, Education, Electronics, Energy & Chemicals, Marine & Offshore, Precision Engineering, and Aerospace.

Click here for full abridged version of the findings. Participate in our future surveys to receive full reports.

 

About IndSights

IndSights is a market research company specializing in understanding the business landscape in Singapore. Our purpose is to enable the Singapore business community through data and insights. How we do this:

  1. Sharing of survey insights with businesses who participate in our surveys
  2. Roundtable discussions, business forums and networking sessions with like-minded peers
  3. Thought leadership on current business topics

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