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S'pore will succeed in restructuring economy: Lee

Publication Date : 01-05-2013


Singapore faces a challenging road ahead as the economy restructures and growth slows, but Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong is confident the country will succeed in making the transition as it did in the past.

Lee struck this confident note yesterday in a message to mark May Day today.

He said Singapore has several factors in its favour, including a well-educated and productive workforce, and its high international standing.

Also, as Asia continues to shine, Singapore stands to benefit. But, he stressed, this hinges on the country staying competitive. "We must maintain this confidence and reputation, to continue attracting investments and creating good jobs for our people."

Singapore's growth is expected to slow to between 1 and 3 per cent this year, from the annual average of 5.6 per cent in the last decade. The slowdown is inevitable as the economy matures and Singapore reduces its inflow of foreign workers, Lee noted.

"But we must continue to create opportunities for ourselves, develop new capabilities and improve the lives of Singaporeans," he said, and cited several government efforts on these fronts.

These include attracting investments to create better jobs for Singaporeans, helping Singapore companies grow here and overseas, and redoubling efforts to raise productivity.

New campuses for continuing education and training will be ready this year, and several new free trade agreements are being negotiated, "which will give Singapore companies and workers an edge over competitors", he said.

In addition, this year's Budget has a $5.3 billion transition support package to help businesses, especially small and medium enterprises, raise productivity and rely less on foreign workers.

Lee assured professionals, managers and executives that the Government is keeping the workplace "fair, progressive and inclusive".

For older and lower-wage workers, the improved Workfare scheme will raise their incomes. Seniors and the less fortunate may get more help too, as social policies from health care to housing are being reviewed, he said.

Like labour chief Lim Swee Say, Lee expressed optimism that Singapore can succeed in economic restructuring.

But the Government cannot do it alone, he added, as he set out what businesses, workers and unions need to do.

Companies have to value their workers and nurture a strong Singaporean core. He urged them to share the fruits of their success with their workers and the community, and strengthen the social compact.

Workers must value their jobs and strive to upgrade and adapt to changing conditions. "They also have to support leaders who care for them and work with them to secure a better future," he said.

Unions should help their members adjust to the new landscape, and work with employers to upgrade businesses, jobs and wages.

"Together, we must uphold tripartism, and keep it our lasting competitive advantage," Lee said.

Agreeing, union leaders like Francis Lim, president of the United Workers of Electronics and Electrical Industries, said they were working with employers to raise productivity.

Chemical Industries Employees' Union president Rajendran Govindarajoo said his union has been helping those laid off to get training and find new jobs.

PM Lee is scheduled to speak at the May Day Rally today.


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