Singapore's economy is looking better this year, with restructuring efforts producing promising results, but the work is not done yet, said Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat.
Making his first ministerial community visit yesterday since suffering a stroke in May last year, Mr Heng urged employers, the business community, unions and workers to push on with efforts to transform their industries.
"If we persist in these efforts, we will continue to make good progress," said Mr Heng, referring to the $4.5 billion Industry Transformation Programme that aims to bring together stakeholders in an industry to change the way companies and workers operate.
More than one-third of the road maps for 23 key industries - called Industry Transformation Maps (ITM) - have been rolled out, with the latest one for the construction industry announced last week.
Speaking to reporters after a dialogue with Moulmein-Cairnhill residents in Tanjong Pagar GRC, Mr Heng said the ITMs have allowed various agencies and parties to integrate their efforts in a more coherent and effective way.
"I think it is an improvement over what we were doing in the past where the focus was just about productivity or skills. By integrating the different elements, we are addressing the issues more holistically," added Mr Heng, who chaired the Committee on the Future Economy that came up with the recommendation for the ITMs.
He said he was confident that the restructuring efforts will bear fruit, adding that based on data that he has seen, the economy will do better this year. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong too had said during his visit to the United States last week that the economy should grow close to 3 per cent this year. This follows a revision in August of growth estimates for this year to between 2 per cent and 3 per cent.
During the dialogue held at the end of his visit, Mr Heng also said of the issue of raising taxes: "It's not a matter of whether we'll do it, it's a matter of when we'll do it... That's the only way of keeping our finances steady in the long run."
He said this in relation to how the country's progressive tax system has helped redistribute income, in response to suggestions that reducing pay disparity could help to tackle elitism in the workplace.
Mr Heng added, to laughter, that he hoped people would put up their hands to support him when the time comes to raise taxes.
About his visit, Mr Heng said he was heartened by the community spirit among residents in Moulmein-Cairnhill, which he hoped could be fostered across Singapore.
MP Melvin Yong, who oversees the ward, said that with 88 per cent of the 29,000 housing units in private estates, there are many residents who have the ability and willingness to help those in need.
He said after launching the Mo-Ca Cares phone app to link residents who want to volunteer with those who need help: "My role is really to make the connections."