Acting Manpower Minister in dialogue with Aljunied GRC residents

A company boss complained that employees were pressuring him to raise their pay, due to the government's Wage Credit Scheme, a subsidy for wage hikes. A 63-year-old job-seeker said firms did not want to employ him as they deemed him too old. These were among the issues Acting Manpower Minister Tan Chuan-Jin fielded on Friday night, at a community dialogue held at Punggol Community Club.

In his responses throughout the 90-minute dialogue, Mr Tan stressed the need for a balance between keeping Singapore competitive and protecting workers. "Everything we do is ultimately for the sake of Singaporeans," he said.

For instance, with the Wage Credit Scheme where the Government will fund 40 per cent of pay rises for Singaporeans earning under $4,000 a month, bosses may indeed feel pressured to raise pay, said Mr Tan.

But the tight labour market means that such pressures are there anyway: "What you find is that if you don't pay your workers well, ...workers might leave and go somewhere else. We want to use the Wage Credit Scheme to help companies manage that pressure on wages."

Mr Tan also addressed questions on whether more could be done to control housing prices. He noted that even if the Government were to sell land or flats more cheaply, "there is still a market value."

Even if a Housing Board flat is sold cheaply in the first instance, it will fetch a much higher price when resold five years later, as that price will be determined by the market, he noted. The main way to control prices must still be via supply, which the Government is doing now, he said.

Organised by the Bedok Reservoir-Punggol Citizens' Consultative Committee (CCC), the dialogue was the first in the ward - part of opposition-held Aljunied GRC - since one with former minister Lim Boon Heng early last year.

CCC chairman Mr Victor Lye said the event was held "because it's necessary to engage people and have a conversation." Mr Lye, who is also the People's Action Party branch chairman for the ward, plans to hold more such dialogue sessions with ministers or grassroots leaders.