On Labour Day…

PM Lee held his annual May Day Rally. Like some of the countries in the world, May Day, aka Labour Day, is a designated public holiday set aside to celebrate “the economic and social achievements of workers[1]

You can listen to his speech on YouTube here. Transcript available here.

Outlining the problems of cost of living, low wage workers, foreign workers and an aging population, PM Lee highlighted similar problems faced by countries such as those in Southern Europe and reminded that “…we should see our progress and problems in perspective.”

In Singapore, PM Lee shared that our problem is that we have created “…opportunities, more than we have bodies to fill…” The people are already working overtime and yet consistently, almost every sector has a shortage of manpower. As a result, it is important that we need foreigner workers. But just how many do we need depends on the economic situation.

PM Lee also outlined how European countries were struggling due to welfarism and state paid pensions that are bankrupting the governments. He quoted Italy as an example. What the Italian government spend on pensions in 1 year is almost (in terms of percentage GDP) what the Singapore government spends on the budget every year for everything. Everything includes healthcare, defense, education, housing… just to name a few.

PM Lee also explained the problem with youth unemployment from another perspective. In Spain, at least 24% of the population is not working, of which about 52% are youths. The implications are youths who do not know what it means to be in a job or learning the necessary job skills. That’s like a generation of youths having a late head start in life and possibly lower economic power when they are older.

Disagreeing with Professor Lim Chong Yah’s proposed shock therapy of increasing low wage workers’ wages by 50% in 3 years, PM Lee while appreciating Professor Lim’s good intentions, shared that the only realistic way of increase is to do it “step by step, with wages and productivity going up in tandem together as fast as we can but as fast as is possible.”

PM Lee also emphasized, “Let me be quite clear, Singaporeans will always be our priority. This is the focus of all our policies.”

Hear hear!

“Look into the future, not back to the past
Commanding a premium, not offering a discount
The first choice for investments and talent
Not a place which is bypass and neglected
Where things get done cheaper better and faster” – PM LEE

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