I love it when my client came to visit me, as I have a conversation with him, my thoughts get cleared out.
Yesterday, my client came to visit me and I told him about my past in the areas of funding.
Over the last 16 years, I estimated the government grants I have processed is over S$ 20,000,000 to S$ 30,000,000. It may be more than that, I would not know. And this does not include equity or debt financing I have raised.
I often boast even 14 years back that I can apply for government funding blindfolded, because after you have gotten hold of the major principle, it is really simple to apply for funding for projects.
Yet I told him, that the past 16 years have been the most spiritually empty experience for me. The main reason is that the market does not understand the function of government grants. They often place more importance on the money and not what the grant is for.
I told him although I love to earn money providing a service, I would like to earn money while making a difference to the world. After my work, I wish to be able to say that I have made a difference to a certain industry, a certain company, to my own motherland, Singapore.
After 16 years, however, I cannot say that although I have seen over 16,000 people. I am totally disappointed that the grants market has breeded a whole generation of people who are looking at government handouts before deciding on what to do in their business.
Various of my peers have remarked that our grant system has created a type of Entrepreneurs that only in Singapore that it can exist – Grantepreneurs. When there are excessive government funding, you see a lot of registrations of companies and when the funding subside in size you see those companies dying one by one.
Our government is one of the rarest governments in the whole world. Their grant system is responsive to macroeconomic changes, and if used accordingly and correctly, it would resolve much of the problems we see in our economic structure now (with China making our geographic supremacy a thing of history).
What did our countrymen do in response to the immensely favourable grant system that our government has? It has squandered away an immense opportunity for greatness. When PIC Bonus was in force, money was spent for the purpose of the money and not what the money was spent on.
There was not and still is not sufficient understanding of what productivity is, and what kind of nationalistic, economic and social purpose that it provides. Projects are done just on the sole basis of grant availability.
I am a Practising Management Consultant. Consultant certified by a Board supported by the government to apply for government funding. Various of the bigger grants (Capability Development Scheme for example) require the signature of PMC to get 6 or even 7 figure government grants approved.
Truth be told, for the last 6 years as a PMC, I have not used my signature to apply for any grant that is more than S$ 100,000. Not because I cannot do that, but there is no point. I would not let my signature be used unless the applicant totally understands the crux of productivity and its role and impact to his own company and its social and nationalistic role.
When I was younger, applying for government funding was like a sport. I wanted to prove that I can apply for a certain amount from the government. Just because of what I write, and by putting my signature to it, money gets moved. The power that I felt was immense.
Now in my forties, I had a realization. Just because I can does not mean that I do. I have come to realize that at times suspending the application of funding is more useful and meaningful. If the SMEs could not understand perhaps the little I can do is not to apply for the funding, and be a part of another empty experience.
I have shifted my business to be equity financing. As private investors are less forgiving to errors, they would decide on a funding decision simply based on free market considerations. Grudgingly I have to say that this form of funding is actually more meaningful, because private investors would not stand nonsense. If you tell investors that you need to spend money doing something you have to convincingly prove that it is something that would create value.
This is unlike our government. Government grants are given primarily for the purpose of increasing the SMEs’ capabilities. The consideration is similar to what a father would consider when approving money for the betterment for his child. It is not based on free market considerations. Yet what did the SMEs say about it? That the government is not helping SMEs enough.
Our government is not perfect. Why not go around the world and see which government in the rest of the world actually gives out money like Singapore government?
Perhaps the redemption for us all, is that all forms of funding are to be imbued with a sense of laissez faire free market capitalism. That every dollar disbursed out has to consider all forms of returns to company, society and to country. Perhaps then our existence, and my practice for the last 16 years to have a meaning. And for the rest of my life as a financial professional would have a deeper sense of achievement and contribution.
I would love to be rich. I would also love to make an actual different to society and country.