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Opening Remarks by Ms Indranee Rajah, Minister in the Prime Minister's Office, Second Minister for Finance and National Development, at the Singapore International Chamber of Commerce (SICC) AGM Luncheon on 22 June 2023

22 Jun 2023
Dr Bicky Bhangu, Chairman, Singapore International Chamber of Commerce (SICC),

Mr Victor Mills, Chief Executive, Singapore International Chamber of Commerce (SICC),

Distinguished guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen,


1.   It is a great pleasure to be here and thank you for inviting me to speak at SICC’s AGM Luncheon. 

Encouraging Partnerships Between MNEs and SMEs

2.    I would like to start off by encouraging partnerships between Multi-national Enterprises (MNEs) and SMEs. Both our local and foreign businesses play a crucial role in Singapore’s economic development, and the Government and our partners have continually striven to create a conducive environment for businesses to thrive in Singapore. And that is through in no small part to your participation and that of the organisation’s. Our efforts have borne fruit – we are consistently recognised as a trusted and reliable business hub, and a vibrant and innovative economy.  

a. For example, Singapore has the highest number of regional HQs set up in the past 10 years, compared to other countries in Asia-Pacific.

b. Over the years, anchoring quality investments from multi-national enterprises has helped Singapore build new capabilities, develop key industries, and create good jobs for Singaporeans. 

c. These investments also create spinoffs for our local enterprises, who can then partner with the MNEs to build capabilities, exchange new ideas and pursue common business development opportunities. 

Supporting Local Enterprises to Go Global and Innovate

3.    At the same time, we have also been supporting our local enterprises, encouraging them to go global and to innovate continuously. 

a. Between 2019 and 2022, we have doubled the amount of support extended to SMEs via capability building grants like the Productivity Solutions Grant and the Enterprise Development Grant. The number of local enterprises that we supported to build new capabilities, innovate and expand overseas has also increased by 60% over this period.

b. At Budget 2023, we set aside S$1 billion to boost the Singapore Global Enterprises initiative. Under this initiative, promising local enterprises will be provided with dedicated and customised support to execute their growth plans, strengthen their value proposition, and stay competitive.

c. We also introduced the Enterprise Innovation Scheme (EIS) to encourage enterprises to engage in R&D, innovation, and capability development activities.

d. Together, these initiatives demonstrate our commitment to help local companies grow and build capabilities. So, I encourage all of you to make full use of these measures.

Equipping and Empowering Workers

4.    We are partnering key stakeholders, such as the business community, to equip and empower our workers with the right skills and capabilities. These enable our workers to adapt to the evolving economic landscape and capture new economic opportunities. A strong local workforce also provides a healthy pipeline of talent for enterprises in Singapore.

5.    This is why we launched the Jobs-Skills Integrator (JSIT) pilot in this year’s Budget. We understand that it is important for businesses to get the right talent at the right time, and for individuals to be able to equip themselves with relevant skills that can lead to the job. 

a. The JSITs will link up businesses, training providers, and employment agencies in each industry sector, improving the effectiveness of our training and placement ecosystem. 

b. We will start the JSIT pilots in the Precision Engineering, Retail, and Wholesale Trade sectors. 

c. I encourage businesses in these sectors to work actively with these integrators. Businesses in other sectors can also explore similar initiatives and partner training providers to provide internships or attachment opportunities. 

Sustaining Family-friendly and Flexible Work Arrangements

6.    We have taken steps to sustain family-friendly and flexible working arrangements (FWAs) in the post-COVID era, which are an important way of supporting families but also an important way of helping businesses to stay competitive. 

a. The Singapore National Employers Federation (SNEF) and the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) have partnered the Government to roll out the Tripartite Standard on FWAs. By 2024, the tripartite partners will also introduce a new set of Tripartite Guidelines that require employers to consider FWA requests from employees fairly. 

b. I would like to assure employers that you will get support and resources to implement FWAs, for instance, through the Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices (TAFEP). This includes regular workshops and clinics on FWA implementation offered by TAFEP, as well as resources on their webpage, such as sectoral case studies on FWA implementation. 

c. To help parents better manage work and caregiving commitments, the Government has doubled Government-Paid Paternity Leave from two weeks to four weeks. I know it may not seem much to those who come from countries where paternity leave is a lot more, but trust me, it is a big step for many employers here because we have doubled it. And also, Unpaid Infant Care Leave from 6 days to 12 days per year for each parent in their child’s first two years. The details were announced at Budget this year.

7.    We need a whole-of-society effort to foster family-friendly societal norms, and employers have a large part to play in building a conducive environment that values and supports families. At the same time, it also benefits the employers because having flexible work arrangements in this current post-COVID context puts you in a better position to attract and retain talent. I would encourage all employers to provide family-friendly and flexible working arrangements, which will benefit not only the workers, but yourselves.

a. FWAs give employees the flexibility in terms of time and location to carry out their work duties, which is helpful to the employees who have caregiving responsibilities. This is particularly important in Singapore, where we have an ageing population and where young families also have young children. So, on both ends of the scale, there are caregiving responsibilities which are increasing. We also need to create a workplace culture where parents can feel assured about taking time off from work to care for children and family.

b. Businesses that provide flexible and hybrid work arrangements benefit from talent attraction and retention, as more employees seek better work-life balance. Those of you who do recruitment interviews probably find this question cropping up, and companies with FWAs are generally more attractive to employees. 

c. CBM Pte. Ltd. is one company that has put in commendable effort to make FWAs work for their 1,900 employees. They adopted staggered working hours and Work From Home arrangements since 2017. During the pandemic, CBM gave their employees more flexibility in their start times to avoid peak hour congestion and to tend to urgent caregiving duties. Roving robots are used to enhance efficiency and allow greater flexibility in scheduling the staff onsite. 

8.    The Government will continue to work with tripartite partners and businesses to build a positive workplace culture. I also encourage businesses to share your best practices with one another, to build a community of family-friendly workplaces. 


9.    Ultimately, all of us need to work together to foster such workplace norms and strengthen the overall ecosystem of support, as we work towards building a Singapore Made For Families. This is aligned with our larger efforts as part of the Forward SG exercise and the CARE Pillar, which is one of the six pillars under Forward SG. Let us work together to achieve a stronger social compact, where Singaporeans better care for themselves and support those around them, so that we can continue to thrive for generations to come.

10.    I am happy to hear your views during our dialogue session and look forward to a fruitful discussion. 

11.    Thank you all very much.