SINGAPORE - Businesses need to look beyond cost management to also explore how to improve their value-add and venture overseas for growth.
This was the message sent out by Minister for Prime Minister's Office Chan Chun Sing at a budget panel discussion organised by Lianhe Zaobao.
Issues ranging from rising costs on water price hike and diesel tax to foreign worker control came to the fore at the event held at the Shangri-la on Thursday, with an audience of around 250 business owners.
Mr Thomas Pek, Singapore Food Manufacturers' Association president, told the panel that the newly introduced water price hike and diesel tax in this year's budget will affect heavy industrial users like food manufacturers.
Mr Chan said that, once cost management reaches its limit, companies should turn attention to creating more value and boosting the top line. He added that the government has no choice but to increase water prices, given the lack of water resources and high usage level.
Meanwhile, new initiatives - such as extending the use if natural gas to more businesses - are in the works to help improve cost efficiency.
At the event, Mr Chan also faced questions on whether the government should loosen the control on foreign worker inflow. He stressed that the issue on this front is not really one of quantity but rather the quality of foreign workers.
This entails better integration of foreign workers to ensure social cohesion, and moving away from reliance of low-skilled labour so that the quota can be shifted to bring in more high quality foreign workers.
On all these issues the government will need closer partnership with trade associations and chambers, which should play a larger role in organising individual businesses to upgrade capabilities and go overses, Mr Chan said.