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PM Lee urges SMEs to consider Iskandar for expansion

SINGAPORE — Small and medium enterprises (SMEs) seeking to venture overseas should seriously consider Iskandar Malaysia as an option, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said yesterday.

SINGAPORE — Small and medium enterprises (SMEs) seeking to venture overseas should seriously consider Iskandar Malaysia as an option, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said yesterday.

Faced with a deluge of challenges including manpower woes, the special economic zone in Johor Baru offers the advantages of lower costs and more land, Mr Lee said at a Malay Muslim Business Conference yesterday.

Acknowledging staffing challenges SMEs face as Singapore reduces its inflow of foreign workers, he stressed that the best way to attract good people is to offer higher wages and exciting jobs. But it is possible only if companies raise their productivity and “climb up the value chain”, he said. When they do that, they will also be in a better position to venture overseas.

“All SMEs want more foreign workers … But we cannot ease up on the foreign worker limits,” Mr Lee said in a prepared speech. “We are still allowing in more foreign workers, so the number of foreign workers here is still growing, although not as fast as before. We know that even this is still not enough, and that SMEs have to turn away business because they cannot find workers,” he said.

By raising productivity and hiring better workers, though, SMEs will be in a stronger position to venture overseas.

Suggesting Iskandar as an option, Mr Lee said: “(SMEs) can take advantage of lower costs, and greater supply of land, while staying close to Singapore … I encourage companies to consider this seriously.”

Mr Lee pointed out various government schemes SMEs can tap to help with their expansion plans or to improve productivity.

He also noted that as Singapore moves to integrate more closely with its Asian neighbours, there will be opportunities for the “bold and enterprising”. TAN WEIZHEN

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