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Govt to prioritise labour shortage conundrum

Manpower shortage bites are causing the local government to re-prioritise developmental and public construction projects.

Speaking in Parliament during the President’s Address yesterday, Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong stated $2 billion worth of projects will be shelved in order to make up for the reduction in foreign workers coming into the country.

In a bid to control the foreign worker population, Lee stated  the government is currently raising levies, reducing quotas, and insisting on higher productivity targets, and more productive ways of building and constructing new houses and structures.

“But that is just managing the number of workers needed for doing the jobs,” Lee said. “The jobs are there. So we have asked ourselves should we not go further and ask, ‘which are those jobs which need to be built urgently?’”

Lee added his team has looked into which government projects could possibly be deferred to make up for the gap in foreign worker requirements.

“So when it comes to HDB houses, when it comes to trains, projects which are urgent, we are going full steam ahead. But there are other projects which can wait one or two years. We can defer them, we can study them a bit more, we can phase them out, so that we can spread out the demand for construction,” he said.

Lee added projects which could be deferred included extensions to Gardens by the Bay and a new Science Centre.

“These are all good projects, but they will all now take a little bit longer to come," he said.

“All together you are talking about not a small sum – $2 billion worth of projects, and we may save, 20,000 to 30,000 foreign workers that way, which I think will be helpful. These are necessary trade-offs, and I hope Singaporeans will understand."

Image: Shutterstock

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