Budget 2017 – Speech by Muhamad Faisal Abdul Manap

(Delivered in Parliament on 1 March 2017)


Madam, in 2016, we have witnessed two major events that had surprised many, Brexit and the American presidential election. Many expressed concerns on the possibility of a major global impact these two events may pose, especially on the economic front. Many see a future with uncertainties.

Madam, moving into an ‘uncertain’ global situation, each nation must analyze and evaluate their own strengths and resources and find ways to strive in strengthening its utilization of resources in a more prudent and most effective manner.

This year’s budget, the 2 main themes or objectives are (i) A Compassionate & Inclusive society and (ii) An Innovative & Connected Economy.

Singapore, as an island city state, only has human resource at our disposal. We rely heavily on our human resource to generate a strong and robust economy. However, we are also very aware that human resource is a challenging factor in the near future, due to the drop in our Total Fertility Rate (TFR) and a rapidly aging population. Apart from making efforts to increase our Total Fertility Rate (TFR), we should also find ways to empower Singaporeans, in particular our workforce. Only with an empowered nation can we achieve our objectives of (i) A Compassionate & inclusive Society and (ii) An Innovative & Connected Economy.

In this year’s as well as previous years’ budget, many initiatives have been rolled out and implemented such as SkillFuture, to enable Singaporean’s workforce to upgrade their skills so as to remain relevant and ready to face the challenges in an uncertain global situation.

In addition to improving individual skills of the workforce through training, schemes such as Productivity and Innovation Credits (PIC) and others have also been introduced to equip companies and employers with technologies to further enhance innovation and productivity.

Introductions of technologies, ‘Hardware’, is indeed good and necessary. However, enhancement is also very much needed on the aspect of ‘Software’ or ‘Heartware’ (values). Technology does not, by itself, enable us to achieve better innovation and productivity. Its effectiveness relies on the employees who use the technology. Only with a motivated workforce, can we work towards enhancing our innovation and productivity.


Madam, a happy employee equates to a motivated employee. A motivated employee is obviously more innovative and productive and many studies have proven this.

A study conducted by the University of Warwick in 2014 found that ‘happiness’ led to an increase in productivity by 12%. The same study also found that workers who otherwise, ‘unhappy’, shows a decline of 10% in their productivity level. The Harvard Business Review, a magazine published by Harvard University, also produced analysis of several studies that showed an average increase of 31% in productivity level for happy employees.

Madam, the organizational and work culture has a very great impact on the level of happiness of our workforce. Many internationally renowned companies and corporations practise ‘employee-centric work culture’. Mr. Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Group, in an interview in 2014, mentioned that one business strategy that he used is ‘an employee-centric management’, giving priority to employees. He said “It should go without saying, if a person who works at your company is 100 percent proud of the brand and you give them the tools to do a good job and they are treated well, they are going to be happy”. In the same interview Mr Branson also said, “If the person who works at your company is not appreciated, they are not going to do things with a smile.” Mr Branson further shared that the first priority is his employees, customers second and shareholders third.

Google, a giant internet company, emphasizes on an organizational and work culture that focuses on the satisfaction and happiness of employees. As a result, Google has consistently received the top spot in the list of Fortune’s “Best Companies to Work For”. Google believes that on an average a person spent most of his time in the workplace hence it is important to feel happy and calm. They believe with joy and peace, it will spark innovation and productivity.

Among Google’s initiatives are,

(i) the office is designed with an open concept that allows their employees to interact openly in order to stimulate the mind and spark innovation.

(ii) to provide facilities such as a gymnasium, fitness center and game room. Google believes that a healthy workforce produces joy and happiness  and hence this will further spark innovation and productivity.

Google’s office in Malaysia houses a cafe that provides free food to employees. Google believes their spending on such is part of their investment costs because everyone knows that good food can boost an employee’s morale.


Madam, the questions are; what is the state of our workforce today, a happy or unhappy one? What is the situation of our organizational and work culture in Singapore? Do employees feel happier while on assignment? Do they feel their employer cares for them? Are our employers making their employees as their top priority?

To answer these questions, I will cite findings of a couple of studies conducted addressing the issue of Singapore’s employees level of happiness.

In 2014, Human Resource Institute and Align Group, a consulting firm, conducted a study, “An Overview of Workplace Happiness Index “. Their findings indicated that employees in Singapore are not so happy with their workplace, the index obtained is 59 of 100, fell on category ‘Under Happy’. The study used scientific methods that contains 28 factors which were categorized into four main categories – ‘satisfaction’, ‘alignment’, ‘engagement’ and ‘well being’. The survey also found that happiness is related to employee’s perception of their work and experience in the workplace. The report also stated that the ability of companies or employers in promoting pride, positive emotions, a sense of accomplishment and enhancing work culture will affect how happy their employees may feel.

In September 2016, JobsStreet has issued a report on a survey ‘Job Happiness Index’, which was conducted in seven ASEAN countries. Results of the survey showed Singapore’s employees ranked the lowest among their Asean’s counterparts. Singapore only gained 5.09 of 10. In the same report, it was said that Job Happiness Index for Singapore will continue to fall to the level of 4.93 in the next six months. The report further mentioned that given such circumstances, employers have been advised to revisit and review their HR practices and address the factors that cause employees to feel less satisfaction.

Overall, if we look at the studies and surveys conducted on Singapore’s workforce for the last couple of years, our workers are unhappy. Arguably, the main cause is our organizational and work culture that does not give job satisfaction. The consequences of not able to provide job-satisfaction is, hampering of productivity and innovation.


Madam, efforts to change our organizational and work culture must be made a top priority if we want to see positive changes in our nation’s level of innovation and productivity. Changing a culture is not easy. It is a process that needs collective and continuous efforts; participation of the government, employers and employees, spanning over a period of time.

The government must take the lead in changing the organizational and work cultures through programmes, schemes and other initiatives. Programmes should be conducted for employers to enhance their knowledge on how to establish a conducive work culture that can make employees feel appreciated and thus feeling more motivated to innovate and be more productive. In addition to these programmes, schemes such as Productivity & Innovation Credit (PIC) should be extended to the costs expended in transforming our organizational and work culture to be more conducive and employee-centric.

Employers have an important task in ensuring that the government’s schemes and initiatives are being implemented and practiced in the most extensive manner to bring about an employee-centric culture. As for employees, they must strive to manifest the best work values. One way of doing so is to attend more programmes and trainings to improve both the hard and soft skills.


Madam, I am convinced that employees equipped with both hard and soft skills are the ones that are more motivated and display good work attitudes. I’m of a view that we need to cater more programmes and trainings focusing on development of soft skills. I would like to suggest that the learning on the topic of Human-Psychology should be made the main thrust in programmes and training syllabuses. This is so that self-awareness as well as the awareness and better understanding of others around us, will allow the development of a more positive and effective intra and inter personal skills.


Madam, I would also like to suggest that the learning of Psychology to be introduced in our lower secondary school curriculum to develop soft skills, both intra and inter personal, in our younger generation. We need not teach the whole spectrum on the subject of Psychology. My suggestion is to include the following 3 components, (i) Personality, (ii) Perception and (iii) Social Psychology. It can be included as part of Science subjects alongside Physics, Chemistry and Biology. The learning of these 3 components will allow our younger generation to develop better awareness of themselves, family members, friends and others in our society. With such better awareness, our young ones will able to establish good social and community values.  With such good values, equipped with skills and knowledge our young Singaporeans will be more empowered when entering our workforce.


Madam, I will switch to Malay.


Puan, budaya organisasi dan kerja mempengaruhi tahap kegembiraan para pekerja.

Banyak syarikat-syarikat terkemuka dunia seperti Google dan Virgin Group telah mengamalkan ‘employee centric work culture’ atau budaya kerja yang menumpukan keutamaan kepada para pekerja.

Puan, soalan nya, apakah realiti budaya organisasi dan kerja di Singapura? Adakah pekerja-pekerja kita berasa gembira semasa menjalankan tugasan? Adakah mereka merasakan majikan mereka mengambil berat atau diberikan keutamaan kepada mereka?

Puan, jika kita lihat pada hasil tinjauan-tinjauan yang dilakukan keatas para pekerja Singapura dalam beberapa tahun yang sudah, secara keseluruhannya para pekerja Singapura bukanlah golongan pekerja-pekerja yang gembira dan punca utama boleh dikatakan budaya organisasi dan kerja yang kurang memberi kepuasan. Akibat dari tidak mendapat kepuasan perkerjaan atau ‘job satisfaction’, tahap produktiviti dan innovasi tidak akan dapat diperbaiki.

Puan, usaha-usaha untuk merubah budaya organisasi dan kerja harus diberi keutamaan jika kita ingin melihat perubahan yang positif pada aspek innovasi dan produktiviti negara. Merubah sesuatu budaya bukanlah mudah. Ia nya adalah satu proses yang akan mengambil masa yang panjang serta usaha yang kolektif, keseluruhan dan berterusan. Ia nya memerlukan penyertaan dari kesemua pihak; pemerintah, majikan dan para pekerja.

Puan, menyentuh tentang perasaan ketidak kegembiraan, ramai telah menyuarakan rasa kurang senang terutama melalui media-media sosial tentang kenaikkan harga air sebanyak 30% yang di umumkan oleh pemerintah. Walaupun pemerintah telah memberi bantuan tambahan melalui rebat U-Save, namun kenaikan harga air meliputi bukan hanya pengguna domestic atau kegunaan dirumah sahaja tetapi ia merangkumi segala rupa pengunaan air seperti industri dan perniagaan. Kenaikan harga air, bertambah pula dengan kenaikan harga diesel akan menyebabkan kenaikan kos operasi dan perniagaan.  Kos-kos tambahan ini saya percaya sebaliknya akan disalurkan kepada para pengguna. Contohnya, kenaikan harga air berkemungkinan akan menyebabkan kenaikan harga dikedai-kedai kopi serta pusat-pusat penjaja makanan. Kenaikan harga diesel pula berkemungkinan akan menyebabkan kenaikan harga tambang taksi dan bas. Bolehkah pemerintah memberi kepastian bahawa kenaikan harga kepada para pengguna tidak akan berlaku?


Madam, I will complete my speech in English.


Our nation’s goals are to achieve (i) A Caring and Inclusive Society and (ii) An Innovative and Connected Economy, relies heavily on both components ‘Hardware’ (technologies) and ‘Heartware’ (values). Comparing both, the latter is more crucial and requires tremendous and continuous efforts as well as commitments. Mindset and culture need to evolve and develop. I am confident that, empowered with the right and sincere hearts followed by a determined, collective and consolidated efforts, we can achieve Happiness, Prosperity and Progress for our nation. Thank you Madam.