NDR 2013: Foreign worker numbers must be controlled, but Govt will help SMEs

The Government understands the difficulties which small and medium enterprises (SMEs) face, and will try its best to help - though foreign worker numbers must still be controlled, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said in his Chinese National Day Rally
The Government understands the difficulties which small and medium enterprises (SMEs) face, and will try its best to help - though foreign worker numbers must still be controlled, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said in his Chinese National Day Rally speech on Sunday night. -- ST FILE PHOTO: DESMOND LIM

The Government understands the difficulties which small and medium enterprises (SMEs) face, and will try its best to help - though foreign worker numbers must still be controlled, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said in his Chinese National Day Rally speech on Sunday night.

Mr Lee noted that SMEs rely a lot on foreign labour, and their greatest challenge is finding enough manpower. But not controlling foreign worker numbers "will lead to serious consequences," he said.

While there is "no perfect solution," the Government will help SMEs find a way to make it. For instance, to help them raise productivity, there is the three-year, $5.3 billion Transition Support Package announced in Budget 2013. Government agency Spring Singapore also has many schemes to help SMEs, though SMEs might not know what is available.

Minister of State for Trade and Industry Teo Ser Luck will also be meeting different business representatives to find out how to better support SMEs, added Mr Lee.

In his Chinese speech, the Prime Minister also reflected upon the progress Singapore has made in the space of a generation, and on the need to work hard so the next generation can do even better.

There will be stiffer competition, and globalisation and technology will pose more challenges, he said. But Singapore is at a better place than European countries or China, with its stable economy and high employment.

Mr Lee also said that while the Government will do more to reduce families' and individuals' burdens, it also wants to build a caring community.

He said he was heartened that more Singaporeans have the spirit of giving back and helping others. For instance, the Lions Food Distribution Project, started by Mr Looi Im Heok in 1988, has gathered many more volunteers in the past 25 years.