Companies must invest in their workers to emerge stronger: DPM Heng

Amid the uneven recovery from Covid-19 and stiff global competition for talent, companies must invest in their workers so as to transform and emerge stronger from the pandemic, said Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat.

At the Lianhe Zaobao Singapore Budget 2021 Business Forum yesterday, Mr Heng, who is also the Finance Minister, outlined three ways companies and employees can work closely together.

The first is joining the Singapore Together Alliances for Action, which are collaborations that seize growth opportunities for Singapore.

He said these alliances can harness the collective strengths of industry and the community to solve problems more effectively.

Companies should also take a long-term view of the relationship with their staff, by upgrading their skills and increasing their productivity. This, in turn, leads to more competitive industries, he said.

"The next phase of competition is the competition for talent. We must better develop our local talent, as well as attract overseas talent with specialised skills."

He added that companies should also give back to society, observing that many companies had returned or donated their Jobs Support Scheme wage subsidy payouts.

Others stepped forward to help vulnerable communities.

Mr Heng had announced last month that this year's Budget will shift "from containment to restructuring", as Singapore's economy continues to reopen.

The $107 billion plan includes a $11 billion Covid-19 Resilience Package to safeguard public health and support workers and businesses.

A total of $24 billion over the next three years will go towards enabling companies and workers to emerge stronger in the face of structural changes.

Going forward, all countries must consider how they can strengthen the resilience of supply chains and production, Mr Heng said.


On its part, Singapore has inked digital economy pacts and invested in research and development.

"We won't know exactly when the returns from these (R&D) investments will be realised - it could be five, 10 years.

"But what is clear is that our investments over these years have seen breakthroughs, especially during this pandemic," he said, citing as an example the Fortitude Sars-CoV-2 and Flu A/B test kit jointly developed by the Agency for Science, Technology and Research, Tan Tock Seng Hospital and local molecular diagnostic company MiRXES.

"The most important thing now is to groom talent... I hope firms can support their workers' skills upgrading, and that everyone uses the (Budget) measures well so that we can emerge stronger together."

This article first appeared in The Straits Times.