Govts need to spread gains from globalisation, says PM Lee

TO ARREST concerns about the uncertainties wrought by globalisation, governments have to spread the fruits of open economies to as many of their citizens as possible.

Questions of whether those who benefit are the minority or majority are being asked, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said at a gathering of top business leaders here, and this is becoming a "serious problem".

To protect citizens anxious about the impact of globalisation, countries would erect trade barriers for their markets rather than open them up, he added during a panel discussion at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation CEO Summit on the state of the world.

"Unless countries are able to develop policies which enable more of their people to benefit from globalisation and give people more assurance and stability and buffer against the uncertainties which globalisation brings, I think these questions will continue," he said.

In his opening remarks, PM Lee said that continued global prosperity depends on two factors: that countries have policies to promote innovation and improve the business environment, and that they work with one another to remove barriers to trade.

Later, during a question and answer session, Mr Lee was asked about the future of innovation in schools. Singapore, he replied, is investing not only in its young in schools and universities, but also in those "across the whole spectrum of skills, abilities, interests and roles".

The changing global landscape makes it necessary for workers to continually learn new skills, he added. "You must be able to continue to reprogramme yourself, download new firmware, reboot if necessary and continue to be useful for a very long working career, and that's what we're trying to do," Mr Lee said.

Yesterday, the PM had separate bilateral meetings with Peruvian President Ollanta Humala and Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto here.

A Foreign Ministry statement said that Mr Lee and President Humala reaffirmed excellent bilateral ties, reflected by recent high-level exchanges, including last month's visit by Foreign Minister K. Shanmugam to Peru.

They also discussed the potential to learn from each other. A pact has been signed between the Peruvian National Council for Science and Technology; Singapore's Agency for Science, Technology and Research; the National University of Singapore and Nanyang Technological University, for Peruvian PhD students to pursue research in Singapore.

In his meeting with Mexican President Pena Nieto, Mr Lee highlighted the strong economic ties between their nations. He expressed Singapore's condolences for the floods and mudslides in Mexico. Mr Lee also invited Mr Pena Nieto to visit Singapore and he reciprocated.

Both the Peruvian and Mexican presidents welcomed Singapore's interest in engaging the Pacific Alliance grouping.

limze@sph.com.sg