IMF warning should keep Singapore on productivity push: Heng Chee How

SINGAPORE - The International Monetary Fund's warning last week that Singapore's slower inflow of foreign workers could hurt growth and competitiveness should not prompt Singapore to relax its manpower policies, deputy labour chief Heng Chee How said on Monday.

Instead, this warning is precisely why Singapore must press on with economic restructuring for productivity gains, said Mr Heng, who is also Senior Minister of State in the Prime Minister's Office.

He was speaking at the annual Excellent Service Award ceremony for the hospitality sector, organised by the Singapore Hotel Association.

To make a U-turn on tighter foreign manpower policy and try to "chronically live beyond our manpower means... would also continue to erode the incentive for us to invest in upgrading our economy," he added.

Pressing forward with upgrading is precisely what the hospitality industry is doing via the Excellent Service Award, said Mr Heng.

Now in its 20th year, the Award is given to service professionals from seven industries, including banking, retail and land transport. This year, the awards for the hospitality sector were given to a record 3,095 staff from 105 companies. Of the staff, 727 received the highest tier Star awards on Monday.

Higher productivity is not just about speed or technology, but also creating value by doing things better, said Mr Heng. "Everyone in the industry knows the tremendous value of the employee who can keep delighting customers, (and by doing so) helps the company produce more and repeated business."

He cited examples of award winners such as Mr Kenneth Ng, 32, concierge team leader at the Grand Hyatt. To help an elderly guest who had damaged his tooth late at night and had an early flight the next morning, Mr Ng persuaded his own family dentist to re-open his clinic, which had closed for the day, and attend to the guest.

Mr Ng was the winner of the SHA Outstanding STAR Award for the hotel sector, the highest accolade. Winning the same award for the non-hotel sector was Mr Mohamed Kaiash Mohamed, 52, from the Singapore Cruise Centre.