Singapore—According to Progress Singapore Party’s (PSP) Kumaran Pillai, job losses are a key issue among Singaporeans, however, the National Jobs Council “does not inspire confidence.”
Mr Pillai, a businessman, was recently introduced to the public as a new member of the PSP. He joined several party members, led by Dr Tan Cheng Bock, the party’s Secretary-General, on a walkabout on Friday, as Singapore entered Phase 2 of the country’s reopening on June 19.
In a Facebook post on June 20, Mr Pillai wrote that he had been asked by members of the mainstream media about the most vital issues that afflict Singaporeans at this time.
I was asked about the key issues afflicting Singaporeans by the main stream media:Firstly, there are two sets of data….
The businessman pointed out that two sets of data have been released concerning job losses.
When Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat announced the Fortitude Budget on May 26, he said that the Government had allotted around S$2 billion to create 100,000 jobs and training opportunities under the SGUnited Jobs and Skills Package, the SGUnited Traineeships Programme, and the SGUnited Skills Programme. DPM Heng also announced that Senior Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam would head a National Jobs Council that would oversee job creation and skills upgrading.
However, a report in the South China Morning Post (SCMP) on April 29 quoted experts as saying that as many as 200,000 jobs may be lost due to the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic.
Mr Pillai wrote, “The gap is really big making me question the data given by the Gov.”
Furthermore, even if the actual figure would be as low as the Government predicts, the businessman said that retraining workers in order for them to move into other sectors successfully will take time.
“It’ll take some time to retrain the workforce to be redeployed into other sectors…. The gov thinks they can retrain and redeploy our workforce in a year. This in itself is problematic,” he wrote. ”So, what are the retrenched workers going to do in the meantime – twiddle their thumbs?”
What is needful for the time being, he emphasized, is a “good social safety net.”
“People need to put food on the table and make ends meet.
Unfortunately, the National Jobs Council does not inspire confidence,” he added.
Mr Pillai echoed his thoughts from a few days prior when he wrote about Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs), which make up 99 percent of all of the country’s businesses and employ 70 percent of all Singaporeans.
The businessman identified the most difficult challenge SMEs face, which is, “the drastic fall in demand even as the economy is opening up.”
Mr Pillai added, “How can SMEs mitigate the risks? For some, it is fight or flight strategy and because the environment has changed so much, it’ll make sense to do a ‘cold reboot’ of the business due to the structural changes in the economy.”
One vital thing that SME’s can do is to consider “partnerships and regionalisation as a key strategy going forward.” This is important as it would “produce higher-value products and services and keep costs of production at optimal levels,” he added.
Author’s note: Mr Pillai is the CEO of Apple Seed Venture Accelerator and the former editor of The Independent Singapore from 2013 up to earlier this year. —/TISG