Lee Bee Wah, Productivity

Budget 2013: MP fears productivity hikes cannot match foreign worker curbs

The Government is right to tighten foreign worker inflows as Singapore restructures but Ms Lee Bee Wah (Nee Soon GRC) worries that the pace of productivity improvements may not match the cuts in foreign manpower.

On day two of Parliament's debate on Budget 2013 on Wednesday. Ms Lee said workers and supervisors need time to learn and adopt new technology. Thus, productivity is likely to dip during this transition stage before it picks up, she added.

Focusing on the construction sector, she noted that in 2010, the Government announced a 40 per cent cut in man-year entitlements, that is, the quota of foreign construction workers allocated to contractors for each construction project.

"The Government is ramping up infrastructure and building more HDB flats, how can the industry cope when almost half of the workers are gone?" she asked.

She was worried that the cut in workers could mean "poorer workmanship, higher construction costs or delays," as well as contractors folding and projects left in limbo.

"Certainly we don't want to see another Rivervale Plaza incident," she said, referring to the mall in Punggol East where renovation has been delayed.