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19 January 2014

Singapore Economy

Restructuring economy is "multi-year" effort: Tharman

Source: Channel News Asia / Singapore

The work to restructure Singapore's economy to create better jobs and wages, and build a fair and equitable society, is a "multi-year" effort, and cannot be achieved in two or three years, said Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam.

The minister also said it is critical for the country to "stay on course" to achieve these targets.

Mr Tharman, who is also Minister for Finance, made this point on the sidelines of a family carnival and Lunar New Year celebrations in his Taman Jurong constituency on Sunday.

The event was co-organised by the constituency and the Agency for Integrated Care to raise awareness of the scheme.

He was responding to questions on what this year's Budget would look like.

Mr Tharman said efforts to restructure the economy and help small- and medium-sized enterprises to upgrade are in the early to middle stages.

The target remains to create better jobs and higher wages over time.

A major part of the restructuring has been a push for higher productivity through schemes such as the Productivity and Innovation Credit (PIC).

The PIC provides tax deductions or cash payouts to businesses that improve their operations by investing in productivity and innovation.

Mr Tharman said: "Productivity doesn't pick up immediately when the labour market gets tight. The lag is understandable but we're now going to see better results in productivity.

“We're working industry by industry with the industry associations, as well as individual firms that are taking the lead to give them the support in technology, in supply chains, provide assistance so that large firms can help small firms. Basically, it's a task that will take a few years, but we are beginning to see results, and we have to press on with the restructuring task."

On how this year's Budget aims to create a fair and equitable society, Mr Tharman said healthcare is an immediate priority, especially for Singapore's pioneer generation.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said earlier that a Pioneer Generation Package would be announced in Budget 2014 that will focus on meeting their medical needs.

Mr Tharman said: "This is a package which reflects not just how much we can afford in one year's budget. It's a commitment by the government to honour the pioneer generation and to do it in a way which is sustainable. It's not just a one-year bonanza but providing them sustainable help so that they can lead happy and long lives."

Mr Tharman will deliver the 2014 Budget statement next month. 

- CNA/xq