Coronavirus pandemic

Securing jobs top priority, most urgent task: DPM Heng

Govt focused on helping to safeguard workers, creating better jobs by investing in the future

DPM Heng Swee Keat said that the Government is doing its best to help viable businesses to stay afloat.
DPM Heng Swee Keat said that the Government is doing its best to help viable businesses to stay afloat.

Safeguarding jobs, and creating better ones, is the Government's top priority.

Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat yesterday made this plain when he said that the Government is doing its best to help viable businesses to stay afloat, so they can hold on to their workers for as long as possible.

Speaking in the last of the series of six national broadcasts by ministers on Singapore's future after Covid-19, DPM Heng said: "Our most urgent task now is jobs. Your job is our top priority.

"Because jobs are the most direct way for every Singaporean to improve our lives and support our loved ones."

Those workers hardest hit by the pandemic, including people who are self-employed and low-wage workers, will also be given support, and employers and unions will also be roped in to boost these efforts.

Even then, warned Mr Heng, job losses cannot be avoided, and some, and perhaps even many, will still lose their rice bowls.

The other prong, therefore, lies in pushing ahead with the economic transformation that had begun before the crisis, to create new and better jobs, he said.

The National Jobs Council has started work to oversee the creation of 100,000 jobs and training opportunities in a big push to create as many jobs as possible, said DPM Heng. "We are determined not to lose a generation of workers and youth," he added.

He pledged that the Government will go even further, to strengthen the economy through building connections to new global nodes to boost job prospects.

"This is what distinguishes us from other countries. All countries, including us, are providing immediate support, to provide a cushion. But we are going further, investing to give everyone a springboard, to bounce back from this even stronger. In Singapore, we never stop thinking of tomorrow," said DPM Heng.

To succeed at this task, he added, Singapore will need to master the major trends reshaping the global economy - the coronavirus has driven home the importance of resilience and reliability, accelerated the shift to digitalisation, and also transformed the way people live and work.

IMPROVING LIVES

Our most urgent task now is jobs. Your job is our top priority.

Because jobs are the most direct way for every Singaporean to improve our lives and support our loved ones.

DPM HENG SWEE KEAT

 
 
 

He outlined three ways that the Government will help businesses and workers thrive in this post-Covid-19 world.

First is to remain committed to the free flow of goods, services, capital, data, ideas and talent, even as other countries close up.

"Do not doubt this: Singapore must always remain an open, trading nation. We are finished if we close up," said DPM Heng.

Second is to continue to invest in infrastructure even if it means delaying some projects.

It is important because "such projects keep us connected to the world, makes travelling within Singapore faster and more pleasant, and gives us all beautiful homes", he said.

Third is to invest in research and innovation to sharpen Singapore's competitiveness.

Towards this end, he announced that as Singapore finalises its research and development plan for the next five years, over $20 billion will be set aside to support basic and applied research in high-impact areas, such as health and biomedical sciences, climate change, and artificial intelligence.

Along with this, a series of Innovation Challenges will be launched to encourage people to pioneer solutions for some of the world's major challenges.

At the same time, the Emerging Stronger Taskforce, set up last month to make the most of the new opportunities in the post-Covid-19 world, will also set up the Singapore Together Alliances for Action.

The target is for these industry-led alliances to quickly come up with new ideas and projects within the coming months - in areas such as robotics, e-commerce and environmental sustainability, among others - which can become new shoots of growth and generate new jobs.

 
 
 

"The task force is consulting widely, and involving people from a wide spectrum of society, while putting ideas into action quickly," he said.

Making these announcements yesterday, DPM Heng said Singapore has a head start as the country had begun transforming its economy five years ago to prepare for the future.

He stressed that the effort to grow the economy is not just to create jobs but to create better jobs for Singaporeans, and the Government will provide training to prepare people for these jobs, as well as strengthen the education system.

"This is how we will keep the promise of progress alive for all," he said.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on June 21, 2020, with the headline 'Securing jobs top priority, most urgent task: DPM'. Subscribe