Sustainable policies keep S'pore relevant

Australia's plan to raise the pension entitlement age to 70 suggests that as its ageing population grows, its pension funds may be operating on a model that is unsustainable ("Aussie pension age to increase"; last Saturday).

Deferment or reduction of payouts becomes necessary to sustain the model. Fortunately, Australia is a resource-rich country and its exports can fund its social welfare system for quite some time.

In contrast, Hong Kong lacks resources but can depend on China if it ever gets into serious trouble.

Singapore has no natural resources or backers. The Government has a duty to develop and maintain sustainable systems - such as the national reserves, Central Provident Fund and housing policies.

Even then, good systems can lose their efficiency over time if they do not stay relevant.

I hope the Government was not succumbing to public pressure when it tightened the inflow of foreign labour, as this may create a vacuum in our workforce some day.

While we blame foreigners for our packed public transport infrastructure and high housing prices, we should not forget that our only resource is people.

Fifty years ago, we needed skilled workers in factories. Fifty years later, we are more educated and want higher incomes. We do not want to be factory workers any more.

So our country needs to continually renew itself with talented labour. But our low birth rate means we need to supplement the shortfall in our talent pool by attracting people from other countries.

Many of those who work here pay taxes, create jobs and draw more people to the country, benefiting sectors such as hospitality, transport, and food and beverage.

The impact of a simple manpower policy spans many industries. I trust our Government is up to the job of building a high-quality workforce and keeping Singapore relevant.

Letter by Jason Soon Hun Khim

This article was published on May 8 in The Straits Times.

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