Finance Minister: Firms have 'small window' to transform digitally

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

He warned that challenges surrounding the country's ageing population and shrinking citizen labour force will become increasingly acute in the next five years.

He told a post-Budget forum organised by Chinese daily Lianhe Zaobao that companies have to use this short window to restructure and transform digitally.

Mr Heng was responding to comments from business leaders on a panel, who said Singapore's manpower shortage is a key concern.

Singapore Business Federation chairman Teo Siong Seng said the challenge is affecting companies' competitiveness and asked if the Government is relooking its manpower policy, especially in view of the country's ageing population.

Mr Heng noted that Singapore's demographic challenges will put "growing pressure" on the economy in the coming years: "This means companies have a very small window within the next few years to ramp up transformation and raise productivity."

He said there will be no major tweaks to foreign manpower policy in the coming years, to encourage companies to stay the course with restructuring.

This will stand Singapore in better stead to cope with its demographic challenges, noted Mr Heng, who was speaking in Mandarin at the event at the Novotel Singapore on Stevens.

Keeping older workers and seniors active is also becoming more important, he said.

Ultimately, Singapore will remain open to top talent, Mr Heng noted, even as the Government takes a more sector-specific approach to restructuring to help businesses accelerate their transformation.