Connectivity capabilities and collaboration in the future economy
Remarks by Trade and Industry Minister S Iswaran at the launch of the CFE’s report
There are major changes in the overall environment in terms of global economic shifts and disruptive technological developments. We also see sentiments against globalisation taking root in some parts of the world.
Against this backdrop, it is critical that we underscore and emphasise Singapore’s basic openness - to trade, investments and talent - and maintain our connectivity to regional and global economies. We believe this is the surest way to ensure that we continue to create opportunities for our businesses and for our people.
Harness Benefits of Economic and Digital Connectivity
Openness and connectivity have many dimensions. One aspect is economic connectivity - and we will persevere in our efforts with like-minded partners to build on trade and investment agreements, be they multilateral, plurilateral, or bilateral. At the same time, we will work on new and different modalities to further this connectivity.
One example is digital connectivity. Digitalisation is transforming every industry and creating new possibilities. Through the digital economy, the smallest enterprise can reach the furthest markets. It therefore presents a unique and unprecedented opportunity at the enterprise level and for the whole economy.
A survey by IE Singapore shows that as our companies internationalise and access new markets, about 60 per cent of the jobs that they create fall within the PMET (professionals, managers, executives and technicians) category. These are jobs that require higher order skills and deep knowledge. They are also jobs that Singaporeans aspire to and can perform well. There are therefore good reasons for Singapore to promote internationalisation so that we continue to create value for our economy, opportunities for our businesses and people, and stay relevant to the needs of the world.
Build Capabilities for a Vibrant Enterprise Ecosystem
Capability development is the other key theme of the CFE. We want to nurture a vibrant enterprise ecosystem where new businesses are constantly being created, scaling up and developing key capabilities underpinned by innovation, productivity and skills.
Multinational corporations (MNCs) are an essential part of this eco-system. They bring a distinct set of abilities and skills, and use Singapore as a platform to access regional opportunities.
However, our goal is not just to have MNCs establish regional or administrative headquarters here.
Our emphasis should be on deepening their engagement in our economy through research and development activities, marketing, collaboration with local partners, people development and other initiatives. The benefits in terms of economic value-add and job creation are self-evident.
Equally, we must develop a strong cohort of Singapore-based enterprises; the depth and breadth of their capabilities are essential to sustaining Singapore’s future economic growth and opportunities. This means working with startups, SMEs, and large local enterprises to ensure a greater level of innovation capacity and collaboration.
How do we go about this? This is where the Industry Transformation Maps (ITMs) are particularly relevant. We are developing ITMs for different sectors, which together account for about 80 per cent of our economy. Each ITM is tailored to the needs of the respective sectors, because they vary in terms of the challenges they face and what they need to do to adapt. However, what they all have in common are the key pillars of skills, productivity, innovation and internationalisation. The ITMs will help build enterprises that are robust, competitive and able to sustain their growth into the future.
Collaboration and a Shift in Mindset Are Key to Achieving the Desired Outcomes
The main ideas in the CFE report are fundamental but they have to be adapted to our changing circumstances. What matters is not just the novelty of our ideas but, more importantly, our ability to execute and achieve the outcomes we set out to achieve. Success will depend on how well we implement our strategies. That is why we have emphasised the need for collaboration among key stakeholders, including the trade associations and chambers, unions, workers, research institutes and economic agencies. Our ability to work together as tripartite partners has been the defining feature of Singapore’s economic development.
We also need a shift in the mindset of the individual, the enterprise and the government. We are entering a riskier and less-familiar terrain, and we have to be bold in trying out new ideas. Some will succeed; in other instances we may have to accept failure and reallocate resources. With deep skills and knowledge, and resilience in the face of adversity, we can sustain Singapore’s economic future growth, and create exciting opportunities for our businesses and our people.