Companies must do more to face challenging market this year: Dr Balakrishnan

SINGAPORE - Singapore is at a turning point and companies will need to do more to navigate the tougher business landscape this year, said Minister for Environment and Water Resources Vivian Balakrishnan on Thursday.

They will need to innovate to come up with new products and services, enter new markets and adopt new technologies to grow, he said at the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce & Industry's Lunar New Year Gathering, which was attended by 400 businessmen and entrepreneurs.

"If we don't do that, do we think we can do the same as we did 50 years ago? We will not survive," said Dr Balakrishnan.

He acknowledged that companies, especially small and medium enterprises, are struggling amid a labour crunch.

But the Government has actually allowed foreign labour to grow, he added, although it must grow "more slowly than in the past".

He made reference to the year of the horse - which has just passed according to the Chinese zodiac - during which Singapore chalked up growth of 2.9 per cent over 2013's 4.4 per cent expansion.

"The horse has slowed down," he said. "Going forward, it's going to be challenging...We will need all the nimbleness of the goat (this year)."

To do so, he encouraged the Chamber to continue its dialogue with the Government while manoeuvring the challenging market.

"We want you to grow, we want you to do well... together we can provide opportunities for all Singaporeans and all races, especially the younger generation."