Support from employers vital for national defence

Businesses are able to operate in Singapore because of the conducive environment for economic activities that is underpinned by a strong and credible national defence capability.

This is made possible only because there is the national service (NS) system ("Relook how NSmen are paid during reservist training" by Mr Delane Lim Zi Xuan; Dec 27, 2016).

NS has not only helped to toughen our boys but has also taught them teamwork, fighting spirit, selflessness, loyalty to your fighting mates and loyalty to your country.

Ensuring a strong national defence is a shared responsibility borne not just by national servicemen and the Government, but also by us, their employers, and their families.

This responsibility does not and should not fluctuate with the times and economic conditions.

The Ministry of Defence (Mindef) disburses more than 85 per cent of employees' total wages during their NS training.

Serving in Mindef's Advisory Council on Community Relations in Defence (Accord), I see first hand how the Government understands the challenges that small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) face in allowing our NSmen employees to attend to their NS obligations.

Over the years, new provisions have continually been introduced to allow us and our NSmen employees to better balance work and NS commitments, in recognition of the sacrifices undertaken.

Measures such as ensuring that our employees are informed well in advance of every NS training to allow better control of schedules and operations as well as time to make necessary arrangements have proven to be helpful.

The "15 per cent premium" of the two to three weeks of the employee's wages is returned to businesses multiplied, in the form of the peace we enjoy and the security of our people, assets and livelihood.

I am sure many have heard of businesses whose overseas assets were robbed or licence renewals unreasonably withheld. In some cases, businesses need to pay facilitation fees before a complaint or a police report is attended to.

It is easy to take for granted what we have in Singapore.

Ultimately, strong support from us, employers and businesses, is vital in allowing our NSmen employees to discharge their duties and better balance their work and NS commitments.

Kurt Wee Chorng Kien

President

The Association of Small & Medium Enterprises

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 04, 2017, with the headline 'Support from employers vital for national defence'. Print Edition | Subscribe