Singapore Budget 2015: MPs call for "more clarity and direction" in productivity drive

SINGAPORE'S lacklustre productivity growth puts it at risk of "stagnation and decline", deputy labour chief Heng Chee How has warned.

Mr Heng, who is also Senior Minister of State in the Prime Minister's Office and the MP for Whampoa, was one of five MPs who raised concerns about the Republic's disappointing productivity push during the Committee of Supply debate in Parliament on Friday.

He said Singapore runs the risk of being caught in "scissor forces": being left behind by more advanced economies that use technology to become more competitive, while losing ground to other countries that are less productive but cheaper.

To improve productivity, Nominated MP Randolph Tan suggested that the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) track productivity outcomes at the level of individual companies.

This would allow MTI to provide benchmarks for what other businesses can achieve by tapping on Government support schemes. The results can also be used to "fine-tune" such schemes to improve their effectiveness or tailor follow-on assistance, he said.

In a similar vein, Ms Tin Pei Ling (Marine Parade GRC) suggested that the Government share examples of firms who have been successful in their productivity drives, especially in the cleaning services sector.

MTI should also identify and address the obstacles faced by struggling sectors, she said.

Mr Zaqy Mohamad (Chua Chu Kang GRC) meanwhile proposed that MTI "define clearer, more specific productivity goals for each sector to achieve".

Although MTI releases its productivity results regularly, this single measure is "too broad-based", and difficult for businesses to relate to, he said.

Mr Zaqy said new measurements could be more targeted. In the food and beverages sector (F&B) for example, this could take the form of "workers per table targets", or table turnaround.

In construction, MTI could work out metrics in terms of value-added per work for each square metre of development.

"These changes may give our productivity drive more clarity and direction," he added.

Ms Foo Mee Har (West Coast GRC) also spoke about productivity in the F&B sector. She suggested that employers in the sector be encouraged to share profits with staff to press on with restructuring.