Keep Singapore a land of opportunity, inclusiveness: PM Lee in May Day message

Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong makes a speech in New Delhi on July 11 during an official visit. Singapore will create a new culture ministry in a bid to "focus on building a cohesive and vibrant society" amid simmering discontent over immigration and income gaps, Lee said Tuesday

Singapore must continue to create opportunities even when the increasingly mature economy faces slower growth, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said Tuesday night.

“Our economy is maturing, and we are reducing the inflow of foreign workers. But we must continue to create opportunities for ourselves, develop new capabilities and improve the lives of Singaporeans,” Lee said in his May Day message.

The economy, he noted, is entering a new phase and not expanding rapidly as before. Singapore posted economic growth of 1.3 per cent last year and this year government expects growth to range between 1 per cent and 3 per cent this year.

Lee cited measures that have been put in place to help make the economic transition more smooth, one of which is the $5.3 billion Transition Support Package to help businesses, especially small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), raise productivity and rely less on foreign workers.

The improved Wage Credit Scheme will help businesses manage rising wage costs in a tight labour market.

For the older and lower-wage workers, the improved Workfare scheme will raise incomes.
Social policies are also being reviewed to allow more help for seniors and less fortunate, especially in healthcare and housing, he shared.

The measures were announced amid increased public dissatisfaction over the growing number of foreigners working in the country which many citizens blame for pushing up cost of living and straining infrastructure.

Lee stressed, however, that all parties need to be equally involved and workers cannot depend on the government alone.

“Companies must value their workers and nurture a strong Singaporean core. They should share the fruits of success with their workers and the community, and strengthen the social compact,” he said.
He urged workers to raise productivity in the midst of tightening foreign labour.

“We are redoubling efforts to raise productivity,” he says. “The new Continuing Education and Training (CET) campuses will be ready this year, and we have worked out Productivity Roadmaps to help specific industries upgrade themselves.”

He also pointed out that workers must value their jobs, and strive to upgrade and adapt to changing conditions.

Unions on the other hand, Mr Lee said, must help their members adjust to the new landscape, and cooperate with employers to upgrade businesses, jobs and wages.

“Let us work together to keep Singapore a land of opportunity and an inclusive society for many years to come,” he ended.

Workers’ Party notes labour progress

The opposition Workers’ Party for its part acknowledged that the government has responded more positively to its calls and the needs of Singaporean workers through measures to improve the standing of Singaporeans in the job market and to raise the incomes of lower-wage workers.

Adding, however, that more needed to be done, it urged businesses and employers to make full use of new measures announced in the Budget to improve efficiency of their businesses and upgrade the skills of their workers.

It also urged the government, particularly the Ministry of Manpower, to assist SMEs to work through the difficult transition period as Singapore’s economy faces restructuring.

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