SMALL businesses in Singapore are more optimistic about economic growth in the year ahead as compared to 2012, yet less positive about their own business prospects, according to a survey done by accounting body CPA Australia.

The CPA Australia Asia-Pacific Small Business Survey 2012, which was conducted in the first two weeks of October with owners or senior representatives of businesses with less than 20 employees, found that six in 10 of the 249 Singapore respondents believe the economy will grow in the coming year. This reflects an increase in optimism levels for the economy compared with what was expected for 2012, when 56 per cent of respondents believed the economy will grow.

Most of those who participated in the latest survey came from the retail, information, media and telecommunications industries.

Gavan Ord, business policy adviser of CPA Australia, said that small firms' confidence in the Singapore economy is surprising given the government's forecast for growth to be "below average in 2013".

"The Singapore government's official forecast is for the economy to grow 1-3 per cent in 2013, sharply below the longer-term expectations of a 3-5 per cent annual rate," noted CPA Australia in a press statement.

But while these small firms are more confident about Singapore's economy in 2013 compared to 2012, they appear less so about their own businesses.

According to CPA Australia, the small business confidence score fell to 51 for 2013 from about 55 for 2012.

Said Mr Ord: "While confidence is relatively high, Singapore small businesses are significantly more likely to expect their business to grow a little than grow strongly, indicating that business confidence is somewhat weaker than the headline figure indicates.

"Reflecting this, the percentage of Singapore businesses that expect to increase their marketing spend in 2013 is the lowest of all markets surveyed."

The small business confidence score is measured by adding up the percentages of respondents who, answering the question "In the next year, do you expect your business to. . .", chose the "grow strongly" and "grow a little" responses, and subtracting "not change", "shrink a little", "shrink strongly" and "close/shut down" responses.

CPA Australia said that 17 per cent of its latest survey's respondents expected their business to grow strongly, and 57 per cent think their firms will grow a little. About 9 per cent expect their businesses to either shrink a little or shrink strongly, while 14 per cent said there will likely be no change. It did not give the breakdown on how respondents answered in its previous survey.