The Association of Small and Medium Enterprises (ASME) has suggested the setting up of a "high-level SME-centric strategy group" to chart the future growth of small and medium-sized enterprises (SME) and come up with SME-centric policies.

"A national strategy would also promote more alignment across the sectors, whether public, private, government-linked companies, SMEs, and policymakers," the ASME said in its wish list for Budget 2015, published last week.

The organisation reiterated its call for a single body to be set up to cater to SME needs, saying this would ensure a more coordinated approach in addressing SME issues and policy implementation.

"Currently, we have various agencies that have developed their 'core expertise', such as Spring Singapore and IE Singapore," the ASME noted.

But "an SME-centric higher body with a more direct policy influence" may be in a better position to strategise, align and champion the cause of SMEs, it argued.

Given an ever-challenging business environment, the ASME also urged the Government to provide more SME support schemes that require less out-of-pocket payments and shorter reimbursement times. A survey that the ASME conducted last month found that more than half of the respondents felt that the requirement to pay upfront and be reimbursed later was the top deterrent for utilising government schemes.

The ASME also praised the Government for having engaged specific industry clusters, including the cleaning and security industries, to resolve specific issues that they face, and suggested it do the same with more industries.

"For instance, the IT industry suffers from a leakage of talent and has been unable to hire manpower of sufficient quality and quantity," the ASME noted.

In fact, the ASME survey found that more than 58 per cent of respondents are hoping for Budget initiatives to help them recruit local staff. The same number of respondents also want more help to reduce rental costs, while 57 per cent hope for initiatives to increase productivity.