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Economy maturing, so growth slower: PM

'Only sustainable way' to grow wages is to develop better workers and create better jobs


SINGAPORE'S official growth forecast of 2-4 per cent for this year is "typical of a maturing economy", says Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

The economy is upgrading qualitatively and expanding less quickly than before as the country undergoes a "major transition", he said in his annual May Day Message, which was released yesterday.

The economy performed well last year, he said, with GDP expanding 4.1 per cent as wages and household incomes also went up broadly. As Singapore goes through the transition, he maintained that the goal of improving the lives of the people remained the same.

One important strategy is to develop better workers and create better jobs, which Mr Lee described as "the only sustainable way" to raise wages. He also said it was the collective responsibility of each of the tripartite partners - the government, employers and unions - in Singapore to develop better workers and create better jobs.

"Workers must make the effort to train and upgrade themselves. Employers must invest in workers, develop their skills, and make full use of their talents.

"Only then will the government's programmes bear fruit. By working together, we strengthen our model of tripartism, and keep it our lasting advantage."

On its part, the government is growing the economy and creating good jobs for Singaporeans, and strengthening the social safety nets to give people "more peace of mind".

It is also upgrading the skills of workers by investing heavily when it comes to continuous education and training, with two new institutes set up in Jurong and Paya Lebar to enable more people to upgrade themselves and advance their careers.

Mr Lee shared how the government was giving generous incentives to help companies raise their productivity and create more opportunities to expand overseas.

This message of an economy in transition was one that was prominent in nearly all the May Day Messages released this year by Singapore's leaders and the tripartite partners.

Labour chief Lim Swee Say said last Sunday that the labour market will remain tight all the way until 2030 and urged firms to ramp up their efforts to boost productivity and innovation.

Workers, too, have been told to improve their skills and brace for more changes in the coming years as a result of this economic restructuring.

PM Lee ended his May Day Message with a call for all Singaporeans to honour the contributions and achievements of the pioneer generation that has helped make Singapore what it is today.

"Our pioneer generation overcame long odds to set Singapore on the path to development. In the unions, many pioneers fought the communists and worked with the government to foster constructive labour-management relations, build a competitive economy and deliver better lives for all.

"Let us honour them by upholding their spirit, building on their achievements and creating an even better Singapore for our children."

Mr Lee will join over a thousand unionists in celebrating Labour Day later today at the new Devan Nair Institute for Employment and Employability in Jurong East, where he will deliver the May Day Rally speech.