The government will continue to focus strongly on helping SMEs here up their game. But unlike previous years, this will not be done by introducing a string of schemes.

Instead, the focus will be on refining and enhancing the many programmes that have already been implemented, based on feedback gathered by the recently formed SME Workgroup - a government-led body comprising business leaders, government agencies and grassroots advisers.

Teo Ser Luck, Minister of State for Trade and Industry, shared this with The Business Times in a recent interview.

He said: "One thing I won't do is to roll out many, many, many schemes. . . We need to focus on implementation, not rolling out more schemes.

"This means implementing existing schemes effectively and making the necessary changes, refining them based on feedback, and also making sure that we set up the infrastructure to make sure these schemes can be implemented."

Any programme that will be introduced must "make some real impact", he added.

The decision to roll out fewer schemes comes amid feedback that there are currently too many programmes in place to help SMEs in Singapore.

The different names and aims of the programmes are often a cause of confusion, and their sheer number - some consultants put it past 200 - have made it difficult for SMEs to know what is available.

But this may soon be history. Mr Teo, who heads the SME Workgroup, said that plans are afoot to streamline the schemes such that they become "so simple, so streamlined" for SMEs to tap on.

"I think all the schemes are well-intentioned. But the way we have rolled them out has been too detailed, too many. So we are going to streamline them, that's for sure.

"I aspire to do that soon," said Mr Teo.

Spring Singapore, the agency which oversees a large number of the SME-related schemes, said that it has already streamlined a number of schemes into what it now calls the Capability Development Grant. This was already announced in Budget 2013.

"We will however, continue to review and simplify existing schemes and programmes to ensure their relevance and usefulness. We will make announcements in due course if necessary," said Spring.

SMEs can also visit the SME Centres, speak to the advisers there on the project they are working on, and have the advisers help with applying for all the schemes that they can tap on.

"That's also why we need to streamline the schemes, so that the advisers are more knowledgeable and it's easier to apply for and implement the schemes for the business."

He also hopes to help SMEs achieve cost advantages by beefing up industry or sector-related initiatives.

"We can centralise certain help, centralise certain backroom, so that they can all get economies of scale."

But SMEs need to play their part. They should tap on the help provided by the government as much as they can to defray rising costs, and look for new revenue streams wherever possible to continue and sustain the business, he added.

"So the SME Workgroup, whilst helping, trying to engage and accompanying SMEs along this journey, can't really spoonfeed because we cannot afford to do so. It is not sustainable. And business is not done this way. It's about survival."

Overall, the SME sector needs to find ways to grow and strengthen itself.

He said: "We need to strengthen our business sector in order to be successful in future, for our economy to have a real pillar of support - where companies are really strong and they can front many things.

"I'm not so ambitious as to expect them to be No 1 players in the world. I just need them to be strong enough locally and regionally. I think that would already help Singapore."