Singapore has to make changes to the way it grows its economy as the model of relying on cheap and plentiful foreign workers to boost output is not sustainable, said Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong.
He was speaking at the Installation Ceremony of the 56th Council of the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SCCCI) on Tuesday.
Mr Goh said Singapore has raised the Foreign Worker Levy and provided incentives for businesses to raise productivity.
He also said the government will work closely with industry associations and business chambers to help their members become more competitive by improving their business models and raising productivity.
"Some people believe that the Foreign Worker Levy will be reversed if the economy slows down. But don’t bank on it. I would like to reiterate here that the government is determined to reduce the dependency on foreign labour and raise the productivity and incomes of Singaporeans," the senior minister said.
The chamber is also heeding the government’s call to raise productivity by helping its member companies to do so.
SCCCI president Teo Siong Seng outlined the chamber’s focus for the next two years, which includes venturing to overseas markets.
Mr Teo said the chamber will help the government to promote its various assistance schemes to its member companies. At the same time, he said it will help its member companies appeal for more simplified application procedures and a shortened approval process.
Mr Teo also said the chamber has received approval from the Ministry of Trade and Industry to set up a representative office in Shanghai through a new initiative for trade associations to venture abroad.
The chamber has already signed agreements with five trade association members.
The Shanghai Representative Office will help them to liaise with their counterparts, arrange for mutual visits and provide business matching services.
SCCCI is now discussing with other ethnic chambers on collaborations with the Shanghai Representative Office.