In the face of a challenging global environment, Singapore has to innovate, deepen its capabilities, remain connected and stay relevant to the world, said the Committee on the Future Economy (CFE).
The CFE, which was tasked to set the direction for Singapore’s future economic development, released its report on 9 February 2017 and outlined seven strategies to chart Singapore’s next phase of growth in the next decade. They are:
1.Deepen and diversify international connections
Singapore must strengthen trade and investment cooperation by continuing to work with like-minded partners to advance the liberalisation of trade and investment, and reduce tariff and non-tariff barriers through platforms such as the ASEAN Economic Community and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership.
The committee also recommended forming a Global Innovation Alliance that will allow Institutes of Higher Learning (IHLs) and companies here to link up with overseas partners to promote innovation. The report also cited how the SkillsFuture Leadership Development Initiative is one avenue to expose potential corporate leaders to quality overseas assignments and gain deeper knowledge.
2.Acquire and utilise deep skills
Workers will have to develop deep skills to stay relevant and in pace with technological developments. Companies, both the private and public sectors, should also move towards hiring and promoting workers based on their skills.
The National Jobs Bank can also be improved to better help match workers to new jobs.
3.Strengthen enterprise capabilities to innovate and scale up
Given the significant investments in Research and Development, the committee recommends strengthening the intellectual property (IP) ecosystem, supporting entrepreneurs carving out new business opportunities, and raising the profile of local startups.
4.Build strong digital capabilities
The CFE recommends strengthening expertise in cybersecurity and data analytics, which are high-potential growth industries. The Government can also establish a dedicated programme office to support enterprises to harness data as an asset.
It also urged the authorities to come up with flexible regulations to enable the adoption of technology, and help small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) adopt digital technologies.
5.Develop a vibrant and connected city of opportunity
As a global aviation and shipping hub, Singapore can leverage on the future High-speed Rail line to create more economic activities in the region, and enhance its digital connectivity.
On the city’s plans for growth and rejuvenation, the Government can develop ways to create new space and manage existing space better. The CFE also recommends creating
6.Develop and implement Industry Transformation Maps (ITMs)
The committee emphasised that industry-specific roadmaps should continue to be customised to suit the needs of each industry. The Government should also be alert to changing industry configurations.
Correspondingly, ITMs can adopt a ‘cluster approach’ to maximise synergies across industries.
7.Partner each other to enable innovation and growth
The Government should foster environment that supports innovation and risk-taking. This includes test-bedding regulatory innovations, streamlining support schemes for enterprises, as well as reviewing and rationalising the roles and functions of government agencies that support enterprises in various ways.
Unions can also help workers prepare for jobs of the future, especially those who may be more vulnerable in a rapidly-changing economy.
Meanwhile, the Government has accepted the recommendations of the CFE.
In a letter addressed to the committee’s co-chairs, Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat and Trade and Industry (Industry) Minister S Iswaran, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said the Singapore Government will pursue all the strategies proposed in the report, and that the Ministers will provide their responses during this year's Budget and Committee of Supply debates.
“We cannot be sure which industries will perish and which will flourish. What is certain that Singapore must stay open to trade, people and ideas, and build deep capabilities so that our people and companies can seize the opportunities in the world,” he added.
Given that implementation may require difficult trade-offs, PM Lee acknowledged that a "hard-headed and pragmatic" approach will be needed. “When results are promising, we will vigorously pursue them. When a scheme does not look like it’s going anywhere, we must have the courage to cut losses,” he added.
PM Lee said the publication of the report marks the beginning of another chapter of the Singaporean story. He also urged all Singaporeans to work together as a united people, to achieve success and prosperity for the Republic.
Commenting on the report, Co-Chair of the 30-member CFE, Minister of Finance Mr Heng Swee Keat, remarked that the committee faced an “unprecedented level of change” when they began their work.
He noted that the pace of change has also hastened in tandem with technological breakthroughs, and that “many of these changes are quite hard to predict with accuracy." And given the nature of economy interactions, Mr Heng explained that the CFE set out to provide the direction and broad strategy, instead of a detailed roadmap.
The CFE, which was convened in January 2016, held more than 80 discussions and focus groups, involving more than 1,000 students, educators, parents, union members, business leaders and academics. CFE members also joined in more than 20 panels, seminars and conferences, where they reached out to more than 6,000 people.
For full details of the CFE report, visit https://www.gov.sg/microsites/future-economy