Ex-SNEF president gets top May Day award

WHILE the global economy was staring into the abyss during the depths of the 2008 financial crisis, Singapore's Government, employers and unions dug in and worked together to figure out a way out of the mess.

It was this willingness to work together to develop a quick response that allowed Singapore to recover strongly from the recession just two years later, said former Singapore National Employers Federation (SNEF) president Stephen Lee.

He said that the training programmes and cash grants for employers to preserve jobs were rolled out just four months after the crisis hit.

"These were not new ideas. Other countries like Japan and Korea had these ideas too," Mr Lee, 68, said.

"But Singapore's economy rebounded strongly because of the swift action by tripartite partners. We built up the capabilities in companies in the recession to respond to an upturn."

In 2010, Singapore's economy grew by 14.5 per cent, a sharp reversal from the contraction of 0.8 per cent in 2009.

Mr Lee, who helmed SNEF from 1988 to last year, was recognised for his sterling contributions by the labour movement, which gave him one of its highest awards last night: the Distinguished Comrade of Labour Award.

The National Trades Union Congress said Mr Lee made significant contributions, from urging companies to cut costs to save jobs during tough times to pushing for the re-employment of older workers.

Mr Lee also warned that the future will be increasingly difficult to navigate.

The employers, unions and Government will face increasingly complex problems brought about by rapid technological advancements, an ageing workforce and a tight labour market.

But Mr Lee remained confident that Singapore will continue to be successful.

"We need leaders who will not lose sight of the longer-term objectives and continue to embark on this process of building trust among the tripartite partners," he said.



This article was first published on April 30, 2015.
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