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Singapore must get its act together to overcome challenges: Chan Chun Sing

TODAY reports: "Our competition is not with one another but with the competition out there,” Labour chief Chan Chun Sing says in his first blogpost.

SINGAPORE: Whether the economic slowdown on the horizon is a cyclical or structural one, Singapore needs to “get our act together” in three areas so workers can emerge unscathed, said labour chief Chan Chun Sing on Thursday (Jan 14).

These areas are: Keeping up a conducive business environment underpinned by cooperation between the Government, unions and employers; keeping workers relevant and jobs and markets in the future; and retaining the drive to continuously improve, be it in terms of competitiveness, skills, or costs.

Mr Chan made these points in his first post on a new Labour Movement blog, saying: “The coming months may be challenging ... Whether the dark clouds mean a cyclical or structural issue, we must still get our act together.”

He added: “In every downturn, it is better to assume there are deeper structural changes needed than assume that the downturn is cyclical and we will soon be back to business as usual. There are some invariants that we must get right regardless.”

Mr Chan said he decided to set up the blog as a platform to regularly share the Labour Movement’s thoughts on how Singapore can work together to overcome its hurdles, adding that his primary concern is always “jobs, jobs, and jobs”.

Since he took over the post, he has met many businesses, union leaders and workers whose main concerns are largely how companies can survive the competition and the kinds of jobs workers here will have down the road. At the same time, there are also longer-term changes in consumption, he added, citing the competition that online shopping is posing to retailers as an example.

What sticks out, Mr Chan said, is that regardless, “we must certainly give investors the best possible reasons to want to be here”.

“No one owes us a living,” he added.

To that end, Singapore’s unique brand of harmonious industrial relations must be maintained so as to create a conducive business environment and to overcome challenges together, said Mr Chan.

“Our competition is not with one another but with the competition out there,” he added.

Singapore must also ensure its workers are skilled for tomorrow’s jobs and markets, which explains the ongoing push in continuing education and training. “It is no longer enough just to have a set of qualifications. These qualifications must have market currency and relevance to tomorrow’s jobs. This is the reason for SkillsFuture,” he said.

Singapore also cannot afford to be complacent, Mr Chan added,. Questions have to be constantly asked in relation to keeping companies competitive and costs low; equipping students with skills needed by the market; allocating land, labour and resources to new growth sectors; and driving innovation to create new products and markets.

That is why the Committee for Future Economy led by Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat was set up: To “re-examine our fundamentals and keep us ahead for the next lap”, said Mr Chan.

"By the laws of the market, only the fittest and fastest will survive. The Labour Movement is committed to working with our tripartite partners to make sure that our workers are fitter and faster than the competition,” he said.

“If Government agencies, business partners and labour movement continue to work closely together, we have every chance to continue to do well. Tripartism is easy to understand. But getting it to work requires hard work, long-term relations and shared understanding.” 

Read the original TODAY report here.