MP: Foreign workers are like 'drugs' to SMEs

Everyone wants help from the Government, but firms and Singaporeans should not become over-reliant on these initiatives, said MP for Nee Soon GRC Lee Bee Wah during the debate of Budget 2016 in Parliament yesterday.

Ms Lee said she supported the Government's initiatives in the Budget to help Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) stay afloat, but cautioned against fostering an over-reliant attitude of firms on the Government.

Foreign workers are like "drugs" that Singapore business owners might be too dependent on and this might create a passive attitude among SMEs, she added.

Ms Lee said: "I have also seen many business owners who have not made any progress in reducing their reliance on foreign workers.

"Instead of re-looking their work processes, they ask their MPs to appeal to delay the time they have to send their foreign workers back."


She said that while firms "rightly" expect some "fish" from the Government to keep their workers fed, they need to embrace longer-term plans and the spirit of entrepreneurship to innovate and raise their productivity levels on their own even during economic downturns.

"Ultimately, the whole country will run out of fish if (SMEs) don't develop bigger, smarter and faster fishing ships to get better fishes from international waters," she said.

"That is why I fully support the idea of automation and internationalisation."

Singaporeans with elderly parents should also take up the primary responsibility of caring for their parents and not delegate or expect the Government to take full responsibility through various social initiatives, said Ms Lee.

Ms Cheryl Chan, MP for Fengshan SMC, also warned against Singaporeans depending too heavily on the Government for social programmes as this might increase the burden on future generations.

She said: "Being aware of what the potential outcome may be, it is prudent for us to take the necessary steps today to avert such an outcome... (We should) strike a right balance between state support and partnerships with the community at large."

This article was first published on April 6, 2016.
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