AN F1 car’s engine has a capacity of 2,4000cc, about the same as a high-end Toyota Camry model.
But while the Camry’s engine generates 167 horsepower – a measure of how powerful a car is – the F1 car has 700hp and can reach top speeds of more than 400km an hour.
This is because the F1 car does not rely just on engine size, but on other factors such as better fuel systems and boosters to improve performance, Mr Cedric Foo (West Coast GRC) noted yesterday, using the car as an analogy for the economy.
His point: For Singapore’s economy to grow, it cannot depend on an ever-increasing pool of manpower – one that is fuelled by increasing the number of foreign workers here.
It must find ‘new levers’ to push, he said, on the last day of the debate on President SR Nathan’s speech at the opening of the latest session of Parliament.
Mr Foo’s argument was similar to Manpower Minister Gan Kim Yong’s reminder yesterday that there are limits to the overall size of Singapore’s workforce.
‘There is a natural limit to the size of the local workforce. There are also limits to the size of the foreign workforce given the constraints on our infrastructure and critical resources such as land,’ he said.
‘We should not become overly dependent on foreign workers.’
Another downside of being too reliant on foreign workers, according to Mr Foo, is that it reduces the urgency and motivation for local industries to upgrade and improve on productivity.
According to Manpower Ministry figures, there are about 1.05million foreigners in Singapore’s workforce. Most of them – about 870,000 – are unskilled work permit holders, such as those who work in construction and domestic helpers.
Mr Gan said his ministry would support the newly-formed Economic Strategies Committee (ESC) in studying the issue of managing resources such as manpower.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Wednesday announced the formation of the ESC to come up with new and creative ways to grow the economy for the long-term.
Mr Lee also spoke about foreign workers, saying Singapore had to find ways to reduce dependence on them, and grow the economy without indefinitely increasing their numbers.
‘I find it hard to imagine that we can have two million foreign workers in Singapore,’ Mr Lee said.
Yesterday, Mr Gan did not announce any specific plans for dealing with foreign worker numbers.
He said he expected their numbers to fall in the current recession but said demand for their services would increase when the economy recovers.
Reiterating the Government’s stand that foreign workers form an integral part of the labour market and provide an important competitive advantage to Singapore, Mr Gan said the key to the issue of foreign worker numbers was balance.
‘This requires careful calibration of our foreign worker policies such that Singaporeans have jobs and our companies continue to have regulated access to foreign workers to remain competitive,’ he said.
Mr Gan said his ministry had recently tweaked foreign manpower rules so that employers will bring in those who are of a higher quality and with better skills.
At the same time, the economy must continue to generate high-value jobs for Singaporeans. Equipping them with skills through investment in high quality education and adult training will also continue.
Likewise, for top human capital, Singapore should do more to attract the best from around the world, said Mr Foo.
‘The current crisis is a great opportunity to re-double our efforts to attract top talent to Singapore.’
He also urged the Government to relook the idea of dual-citizenship as a way to attract them to Singapore’s shores.