PM Lee's May Day message: Singapore faces urgent task of transforming economy

Mr Lee will deliver his annual May Day speech at Downtown East on Sunday, May 1.
Mr Lee will deliver his annual May Day speech at Downtown East on Sunday, May 1.ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG

SINGAPORE - Singapore must press on with the urgent task of transforming its economy, so that there will be more opportunities for workers and their families to improve their lives, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said on Saturday (April 30).

And preparing workers to take on good jobs will remain at the heart of the economic transformation, Mr Lee said in his annual May Day Message.

"At the heart of our economic transformation is the need to ensure that Singapore continues to offer the right jobs, our workers have the right skills, and there is a good match between the two," he added.

This process will entail many changes, but one thing will not change, Mr Lee said: "This Government remains on the side of workers."

The economy grew 2.1 per cent last year, the slowest since the 2009 financial crisis.

Mr Lee noted that apart from the ageing population and tight labour market, Singapore faces slowing growth in China and strong global competition. "Due to these factors, we expect growth to remain at 1 to 3 per cent in 2016," he said on a sombre note.

Amid these conditions, the Government is committed to economic transformation and to supporting those "ready and willing to make the effort", Mr Lee said. He cited the recent Budget measures to boost the economy and investments in research and development as examples of government resources being pumped in to assist the transformation process.

While these measures are not narrowly targeted at workers, Mr Lee said they will benefit workers when good jobs are created and the economy is strong.

The prime minister also urged workers to upgrade their skills through SkillsFuture, and be ready for new jobs that are created.

The Government, unions and workers all have a role in this transformation journey, Mr Lee added. Employers must work with unions to redesign jobs and nurture their workers, while workers have to partner employers and stay relevant for the future. "We can succeed if we all work together and each one does our part," he said.

"This is not the first time that we have had to reinvent our economy," he added. Economic transformation in the past succeeded because the government, employers and labour movement worked together to realise a shared vision of improving workers lives, he said.

"I am confident that we will succeed again if we stay united, and work resolutely and patiently at this goal," he added in an upbeat note.

The annual May Day celebrations kicked off on Friday night (April 29) with the annual May Day Dinner at the Orchid Country Club, where the NTUC presented May Day Awards to 91 individuals and organisations that have contributed to the labour movement.

On Sunday (May 1), it will hold the annual May Day Rally at Downtown East where Mr Lee will deliver his annual May Day speech.