PM Lee on productivity

PM Lee: We have to keep growing to generate resources, to upgrade our city and improve our lives and to enable each Singaporean to have a secure job for a good standard of living and get a good future for his children.

Therefore we need to raise productivity. And that's just a matter for workers working harder. In fact, it's not a matter of working harder.

It's working smarter. But workers have to make the effort. Employers have to make the effort. And the government also must be productive.

So let me give you some examples of what I mean by productivity. First, at the worker level, it means upgrading knowledge, skills, doing a wider rage of jobs, becoming more valuable to your firms.

I give you one concrete example: Tong Shiang Wee, who is working for a company called Cameron, which makes equipment for the oil and gas industry.

He's now in his late 40s. He joined the firm when he was 21 years old with no school qualifications, started at the bottom as a trainee fitter. But his attitude was "must try, no harm trying."

So over the years, he kept learning on the job and attended courses to upgrade himself. And today, his job title is Manufacturing Specialist, and he oversees 70 technicians and four production supervisors.

And that's what job upgrading and job enlargement means from doing your own work to being able to watch over many other people's work and make sure that many other people are productive too.

Secondly, employers also play a key role because for the worker to be productive, the employer must create the right biz environment, must find the right business opportunities, and then they can develop expertise in this business, create value and grow a competitive and profitable business, which can hire productive workers.

I give you one example. Our shipyards, Keppel and SembCorp Marine. They have developed deep specialist knowledge and skills in their biz, which is to make jack up oil drilling platforms.

Two of them are the market leaders in the world. And together, they produce 70% of all their jack up oil-rigs in the world. These are oil rigs which go and drill for oil in very deep waters.

Recently you might have read of a major oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Deepwater Horizon owned by BP exploded, sank, caused a major disaster in the sea and all along the Gulf coast, millions of barrels of oil were spilled.

I was in Houston recently in Texas, which is near where the spill happened. And I met a Keppel exec there. He was overseeing their plant in Texas at Brownsville.

So I asked him,  "Did we build that oil rig which exploded?" He said, "No, but we built the rig from which they are mounting the rescue operations."

And that's a very interesting story which let me try and explain to you.

This is not a class but just trying to make myself clear. Deepwater Horizon used to be here drilling for oil here 18,000 feet below the surface of the sea. It exploded, there was a mishap, sank, oil pouring out.

The platform from which they were mounting rescue operations, sending in submersibles, trying to close it off and doing all the complicated things - Q4000 - was made by Keppel.

But there are two other platforms in this picture.

They are drilling two relief wells from here and from here to try and join up with the borehole deep under the sea so as to do a "bottom kill" - to seal it off with concrete.

You imagine they've got to go all the way down and drill through 18,000 feet and find this right spot and join up just there.

Why am I explaining this to you? Because this one is built by Keppel and this one is built by Sembcorp.

So let me show you, Q4000, this is the rescue platform and in the background you can see DD III which is also the Keppel one, it's called Development Driller III and on the other side we can see the DD II, the white one.

So not bad for a country which has no oil but we are there.

And, therefore, the two companies pay good bonuses in good years; I hear a rumour that last year they got nine months, and we get something because several hundred million dollars of taxes to the Government.

That's productivity.

My third example of productivity you may not expect though many of you would be familiar with it and that is from the public sector because the Government also must do the right thing and make sure that it spends money wisely, it spends time wisely, it uses its resources well and gets results.

It's harder to measure government outcomes because it's not always in dollars and cents but it's still important for us to seek out efficiency gains and to do the best we can.

And I give you an example which all the men here should know about - IPPT for NSmen.

It used to be a very manual process: PTIs, stopwatches, clipboards, pieces of paper, queuing up, waiting, hurry up and wait.

But now it's a highly automated process. If you go to one of these IPPT centres and you do your chin-ups or sit-ups, they got sensors to count the number of chin-ups and sit-ups you complete, so you don't have to argue with a PTI.

And then when you run 2.4 click you carry an RFID in your number, it's like what you do when you run the marathon and automatically your time is logged.

When you cross the finish line they know.

And you get good service too because with this RFID the NSmen can go and check their scores and their status at the computer.

There you are, he's got his number, the ID is inside here and he can see his results anytime.

Result: save manpower.

Results: NSmen's time saved and results: also a sense of purpose and efficiency because then the NSmen can feel that I'm going there, I'm achieving something, I've done it, I'm off, no faffing around, no standing around and waiting and that's what all government departments must learn to do.

Productivity has to be the responsibility of all of us: To keep learning and upgrading, to increase our value and contribution and that is the way Singapore can stay ahead of the competition, our firms can do well and all of us can improve our lives.

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