Big tech firms expanding here, creating jobs: PM

PM Lee Hsien Loong meeting actress Aznah Hamid, 57, at the table with Teck Ghee's Pioneer Generation residents during the Chinese New Year celebration dinner last night.
PM Lee Hsien Loong meeting actress Aznah Hamid, 57, at the table with Teck Ghee's Pioneer Generation residents during the Chinese New Year celebration dinner last night.ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

They hold Republic in high regard as people work hard and Govt is effective, he says

Major global technology companies are expanding their operations here and creating opportunities for Singaporeans, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said last night.

And Singapore has to make sure it remains a nation of opportunity for all and is a liveable, endearing home, he told 2,500 residents at a Chinese New Year dinner in his constituency, Ang Mo Kio GRC.

In a short speech, Mr Lee shared some observations from his recent week-long visit to the United States for the US-Asean Summit, where he also visited tech giants in Silicon Valley and caught up with Singaporeans working there.

He noted that companies like Google, Facebook and Apple have big operations here and are expanding their local presence.

They hold Singapore in high regard, even though it is small, has no hinterland and costs are not low.

"But it is a place where they can do business, where Singaporeans work hard, where the Government is effective, the infrastructure is good," PM Lee said. "And so they are here and they are creating jobs for us and prosperity for us."

Last Thursday, Google's local office announced it would acquire local business messaging start-up Pie to kick-start a Singapore-based engineering team.

Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan, who oversees the Smart Nation initiative and was with PM Lee on his US visit, had also said the move would mean greater opportunities for computer science and engineering graduates.

Mr Duncan Tay, 37, who works in a small local firm that provides IT support to businesses and was at the dinner last night, welcomed the news that major tech companies are growing their presence. "When big companies come here, they subcontract out more jobs and hire more. I've seen more business opportunities lately," he said.

PM Lee also attended a reception for Singaporeans living in San Francisco during his US visit, and encouraged them to maintain their links with Singapore and return one day.

He said last night: "It reflects well on us that they are doing well... making promising start-ups, hoping to invent the next big thing.

"At the same time, we hope that they will accumulate experience and one day, they will come back and contribute to Singapore society and to our economy too."

"I'm sure they will," Mr Lee added, noting that some will return for family reasons and others will do so as they see opportunities here and feel Singapore is a place where they can chase their dreams.

Many also see that Singapore is changing, whether it is old housing estates being upgraded, park connectors being built and good and affordable healthcare services being put in place, he noted.

Mr Lee had told Singapore reporters at the end of his trip that the Infocomm Development Authority is working on proposals to try to draw tech experts back home and will announce them soon. The civil service is hiring more engineers.

Last night, Mr Lee said it is also important to ensure that Singapore remains a beautiful place and all Singaporeans are taken care of.

"This is the Year of the Monkey. The monkey is always thinking of new things to do - find a higher branch to climb, another fruit to pluck. I think we should be like that too. If we are like that, then we will have a bright future."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on February 21, 2016, with the headline 'Big tech firms expanding here, creating jobs: PM'. Print Edition | Subscribe