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Government to mesh economic, social policies more tightly for post-COVID-19 world: Heng Swee Keat

Government to mesh economic, social policies more tightly for post-COVID-19 world: Heng Swee Keat

A woman wearing a protective mask walks across a bridge beneath the skyline of Singapore's business district amid the coronavirus outbreak, May 27, 2020. (Photo: Reuters/Edgar Su)

SINGAPORE: The Government will tighten coordination between its economic and social policies to ensure that Singaporeans can have access to jobs and opportunities in the post COVID-19 economy, said Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat on Friday (Aug 28).

This is part of its efforts to more closely align different public policy areas to tackle the complex challenges and new opportunities arising from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Vulnerable workers will receive additional support and social mobility will continue to be a feature of Singapore society, he said.

To better understand the concerns of citizens and develop “more citizen-centric” policies, the Government is growing new capabilities in data analytics and citizen engagement, Mr Heng added in an addendum by the Prime Minister’s Office’s (PMO) Strategy Group to the President’s Address at the opening of the 14th Parliament on Monday.

READ: Opening of 14th Parliament: President Halimah outlines Government’s priorities in fight against COVID-19 crisis

The PMO’s Strategy Group organises the public service to develop and implement the Government’s key policy priorities in a coherent and coordinated manner, the addendum said.

“A comprehensive review of the Government’s medium-term policy agenda is needed, in order to tackle new challenges but also seize new opportunities, so that Singapore can manage this crisis well and continue to thrive in a post-COVID-19 world,” said Mr Heng in the addendum.

READ: Timing of GST hike and other moves to shore up revenue position will be 'carefully' monitored: Heng Swee Keat

He also said that Singapore will continue to take a “calibrated approach” to immigration and maintain a careful balance in its foreign worker flows.

“We welcome those who can contribute to our society and want to make Singapore their home, while ensuring that our policies allow Singaporeans to benefit from better jobs and opportunities,” he said.

Competition from foreign workers was a contentious issue raised during the General Election in July, and President Halimah Yacob said on Monday that a “sense of competition” for jobs from work pass holders was a potentially divisive issue for Singapore.

On Thursday, the Manpower Ministry announced that the minimum qualifying salary for Employment Passes and S Passes would be raised from next month.

READ: Minimum qualifying salary to rise by S$600 for Employment Passes and S$100 for S Passes, higher requirement for financial services

Continuing a theme that has surfaced in various ministries’ addenda over the week, Mr Heng said that a post-COVID-19 “new normal” will also present new opportunities to advance Singapore’s sustainability agenda.

“We will catalyse and generate new green growth areas for Singapore and create new jobs for Singaporeans. We will build resilience to future crises and supply shocks, such as by enhancing our food security, in a resource efficient manner,” he said, adding that Singapore will also aim to reduce transport emissions.

PUBLIC SERVICE TO ORGANISE ITSELF DIFFERENTLY

The public service will organise itself differently with cross-agency teams becoming more common, said Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing in a separate addendum issued by the PMO’s Public Service Division (PSD) and the Science & Technology Policy and Plans Office.

“We are building stronger common competencies across our public service that are needed by all agencies … In addition, we will tighten our focus on solving problems beyond agency boundaries,” said Mr Chan, who is also Minister-in-charge of the Public Service.

An example is the Public Sector Science & Technology Policy and Plans Office, which coordinates the planning of science and technology capabilities, aggregates demand for greater efficiency and trains science and technology experts.

READ: More than 50,000 ‘new and upgraded’ jobs to be created over next 10 years amid sustainable development push: Grace Fu

Mr Chan promised that the public service will also recruit and develop its people differently.

“We will recruit candidates from diverse backgrounds so that we have a public service workforce that can bring different perspectives to problems and contribute different skills to create new solutions to problems,” he said. 

“As our environment changes very fast, we will invest more in skills upgrading to enable our officers to stay employable over a longer career.”

Public officers will rotate to different jobs, so that they gain a wider perspective and get more opportunities to work with partners in the people and private sectors, he said.

“This will keep them close to the ground, and give them a diverse body of networks, skills and experiences to solve problems effectively.”

FASTER DIGITALISATION

Government agencies have brought forward their timeline to digitalise in view of COVID-19, said Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan and Minister-in-charge of the Smart Nation Initiative. 

The Digital Government Blueprint had committed that all Government services will be digital from end-to-end by 2023.

WATCH: New blueprint for Singapore's digital transformation | Video

“We will use technology to build Singapore into a Smart City, and to improve quality of life,” he said in the addendum by the Smart Nation and Digital Government Group under PMO.

For example, the Housing & Development Board’s Smart Hub integrates data to improve estate management and facilitate better town planning, he added.

READ: MCCY to set up ‘digital corps’ which will deploy youths to help community, social sectors go digital

Dr Balakrishnan said the Government will make it simpler and faster for businesses to transact digitally with the Government by expanding the GoBusiness platform to include more services and personalised recommendations.

With the COVID-19 crisis, the platform had been enhanced to help businesses stay up-to-date on COVID-19-related regulations and apply for exemptions. GoBusiness had also launched an e-Adviser to help businesses better identify relevant government support based on their needs.

The Government’s digitalisation efforts will help develop capabilities within the local Information and Communications Technology (ICT) sector, he said.

The value of Government ICT contracts is projected to increase by more than 30 per cent this financial year to S$3.5 billion. Small- and medium-sized enterprises will be able to participate in up to 80 per cent of procurement opportunities.

Source: CNA/ic(nc)

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