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Singapore Budget 2018: Companies have 'narrow window' to transform as demographic challenges intensify, says Swee Keat

SINGAPORE companies have a small window of opportunity to ramp up their digital transformation efforts and raise productivity over the next few years, said Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat.

This is because challenges surrounding the country's ageing population and shrinking citizen labour force will become increasingly acute in the next five years, added Mr Heng, who was speaking at a post-Budget forum organised by Mandarin daily Lianhe Zaobao.

This means companies have to use this short window to restructure and transform digitally, he told the audience of 200 at Novotel Singapore on Stevens.

Mr Heng was responding to comments from business leaders on a panel, who said that Singapore's manpower shortage is a key concern for companies especially as they undergo digital transformation.

There have been calls for the government to be more flexible with its approach to foreign manpower, especially in fast-growing tech industries such as cybersecurity and data analytics where local talent can be tough to find.

Speaking in Mandarin, Mr Heng said that there will be no major tweaks to Singapore's foreign manpower policy in the coming years which means the task of restructuring is even more urgent.

Still, he added that Singapore will remain open to top talent, even as the government takes a more targeted, sector-specific approach to restructuring to help businesses accelerate their transformation.