Singapore to delay S$2 billion worth of construction as manpower shortage bites

SINGAPORE Wed May 28, 2014 6:30am EDT

SINGAPORE May 28 (Reuters) - Singapore's prime minister said on Wednesday that the government will defer S$2 billion ($1.59 billion) worth of public construction projects in order to reduce demand for foreign workers in the city-state.

An influx of low-wage workers from overseas has caused growing resentment among citizens of the small city-state, riled by the strains that a rapidly growing population have posed on its infrastructure and services.

The population expanded by 35 percent from 4.0 million to 5.4 million between 2000 and 2013.

Lee Hsien Long's government has responded by raising levies companies have to pay in order to bring in low-wage construction workers. Lee said in parliament that they would continue to limit the inflow of foreign labour, despite the difficulties such curbs cause to small and medium-sized businesses.

"We cannot ease up on the foreign worker limits," he said.

Lee added that the government will now delay certain construction projects in order to further reduce the need for workers.

Projects which are urgent such as new public housing and the expansion of its rail network will continue, but projects such as building new government ministry buildings and the construction of a new science centre will be delayed.

"These are necessary trade-offs and I hope Singaporeans will understand," Lee said. ($1 = 1.2563 Singapore Dollars) (Reporting by Rachel Armstrong; Editing by Kim Coghill)

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