Why you should hear Lim Swee Say’s 3 pronged strategy

lim swee say


Before we go to far talking about Lim’s theory of productivity, here are 3 questions to consider:


1. Do you want a less crowded Singapore?



2. What if I told you productivity meant higher salary?



3. What if I told you, productivity meant more holidays?



You see the point now? Let’s read further…

The NTUC held a National Day Observance Ceremony yesterday and the Labour Chief Lim Swee Say aired his concern: poor productivity.


To address poor productivity, Lim Swee Say drew out 3 things he wants to see in this country:

1. To get all sectors of Singaporean business to be more productive,

2. “Help” less productive sectors lower their need for workers,

3. Go on the offensive


I understand “Minister language” is a bit hard to understand, so we helped out with a bit of translation. And you should be concerned, especially if you are in the business of doing business.


  • If you’re not a productive business, you should consume less human resource.

Is your business doing a lot of work, but making very little money? If so, you need to seriously consider re-designing your operations…or re-consider your industry altogether. Why? See the next point.


  • We don’t just want jobs, we want good jobs

By “good”, it means work that both pays well and grows the person doing the job. We’ve got a limited supply of Singaporeans and we want the best for them, I think we can agree on that. Good jobs require good people and good people are going to cost more.


  • This means Singapore will be a more expensive place to do business

No doubt about that. And when it becomes more expensive, business will have to be smarter at what sort of industry they chose to be in. You can say that they are “forced” to be productive but hey, necessity is the mother of inventions isn’t it?


  • But productivity isn’t just about machines

Technology is fancy and the G isn’t short of handing out funds to help you buy cool new technology or designing new tools to be more productive. But technology and machines aren’t everything. In some areas of operation, all you need is a tweak in the way operations are conducted.


  • If you’re stuck in the past using old tired ways of doing business…

Then you will find yourself out of business very soon. Harsh, but that is the reality of Singapore. Whatever space, human and infrastructural resource we have is limited. It doesn’t mean that you must shut down and go out of job, it might mean that you will be shifting your operations to a lower-cost destination.

Once upon a time, Singapore was known for labour intensive manufacturing: for example toys, electronics and furniture. These businesses aren’t going to be able to continue in Singapore anymore simply because we can’t afford the resource. So what happens? Newer industries such as technology intensive manufacturing takes its place – staff gets paid more, companies require less people and it becomes more sustainable for this little island.


  • Why should we worry about productivity anyway? 

Productivity leads to GDP. GDP leads to national budget. This nation now costs about $55b to run each year. Don’t think that your ERP (~$170m) and GST (~$8b) is going to help a lot, the bulk of our national income needs to come from businesses. That’s where your Workfare, Pioneer Generation, GST rebates and public services are coming from.








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