(SINGAPORE) Measures to help cope with manpower shortages rank highest on the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry's (SCCCI) Budget 2012 wish-list, shaped by a survey of 215 of its member companies.

The respondents, mostly small and medium enterprises, are hoping for a review of the foreign worker policy, wage subsidies or tax incentives for hiring low-income or older citizens and a restoration of the Jobs Credit Scheme.

The three measures were cited by almost half of the survey's respondents as policies that are sought after in the upcoming Budget. This compares with 53 per cent of respondents who made the perennial plea for reduced corporate income tax.

However, instead of an outright cut in the tax rate, the SCCCI report released yesterday suggested that this could come via a raised expenditure ceiling for tax deduction and allowances under the Productivity and Innovation Credit Scheme.

'This provides more incentive for companies to invest more capital into making their business operations more efficient and productive,' the report said.

The chamber's survey, conducted in November and December, also showed that despite an 81 per cent awareness of the government schemes to help companies boost productivity and concrete productivity measures taken by two-thirds of the respondents, less than a third applied for government subsidies.

This low take-up rate is an issue the relevant authorities may wish to look into, the SCCCI suggests. Its survey revealed factors like complicated paper work and the inability to provide documents required as deterrents to applying for the schemes.

'Some companies are also interested in applying for these schemes but find that their company size does not fit the schemes' criteria,' the SCCCI said.

Reflecting rising prices, companies are also hoping for measures to help alleviate costs, particularly transport costs. Their wish-list includes road tax rebates for heavy vehicles, lower electronic road pricing rates and lower vehicle rentals.

The SCCCI said that although more than half of those surveyed are pessimistic about the business outlook for 2012, companies are taking proactive steps to expand their markets (53.5 per cent) or restructure their operations to survive (39.1 per cent).