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Minister Heng Swee Keat urges enterprises to tap programmes, grants

TO tap opportunities made available by new technologies and globalisation, Singapore has to make great efforts in economic restructuring, Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat has said.

Every country hopes that its economy does not stay at the bottom of the value chain, he pointed out on Friday at a post-Budget forum organised by Chinese daily Lianhe Zaobao.

Companies therefore are encouraged to take advantage of the various programmes and grants from the government in corporate restructuring, he told the audience of 250 at The Fullerton Hotel Singapore.

The minister was responding to comments from business leaders on a panel, who expressed concern that the government planned to cut the number of foreign workers, announced in the latest Budget. The business leaders said they understand reducing reliance on foreign workers was inevitable, but they hope the government could be flexible in implementing the cuts for companies that have lagged behind in reducing such reliance, as well as to make the bitter pill more palatable.

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The three leaders are president of Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce & Industry Roland Ng, chairman of Singapore Business Federation Teo Siong Seng, and president of Singapore Manufacturing Federation Douglas Foo.

Mr Heng said he understands that company representatives in the audience might be concerned about the control of growth in foreign workers. But for Singapore to have a sustainable inflow of foreign workers, reducing over-reliance on foreign workers is necessary. He pointed out that if nothing is done, companies could lose their competitiveness, and by being less reliant on foreign workers, there is also a driving force to upgrade workers' skills.

Hence, he urged enterprises to apply for programmes such as SME (small and medium-sized enterprises) Go Digital and Innovation Agents Programme in their restructuring.

The Mandarin session was attended by participants who are mostly owners of SMEs, as well as representatives from trade associations.