Business leaders can play key role in Singapore's future economy: Heng Swee Keat

Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat.
Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat.PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

SINGAPORE - Business leaders can play a key role in the future economy, as they are well-positioned to "spark change and create value", said Minister of Finance Heng Swee Keat on Wednesday (Nov 4).

Speaking at the Singapore Business Federation's Semi-Centennial Leadership Conference at Suntec City Convention Centre, he reiterated the need for Singapore to shift from a value-adding economy to a value-creating one in order to stay ahead of competition.

"Companies are the building blocks of our economy ... (and) a value-creating economy is hence built on these building blocks, a network of innovative, entrepreneurial companies that can continually create value that exceeds the cost of its inputs," said Mr Heng.

"In turn, innovative companies are built by outstanding leaders who make the right strategic choices, execute rigorously and create opportunities for their people to be at their best."

Mr Heng noted that it is important for corporate leaders to tackle the five areas he had previously marked as critical for Singapore's future economy - companies, jobs, markets, technology and resources.

Businesses, for instance, need to "deepen corporate and innovative capabilities to prepare for the future of companies", he said, citing Boustead Singapore as an example.

The company in the 1960s had rethought its business model and moved from distributing major brands into infrastructure-related engineering services, achieving its successes today.

Mr Heng also urged businesses to seize opportunities to connect to regional and global markets, so that they can "transcend the size of our domestic market and build scale".

"Singapore is already an externally-oriented economy, but we need to delve further into strategies to help our companies expand into these markets amidst rising competition," he said.

"Internationalisation is complex. This is why good business leadership is key to help organise ourselves to better connect to regional and global markets."

At the conference, 50 companies were also honoured with the Singapore Golden Jubilee Business Awards for their achievements and contributions over the decades.

Boustead Singapore was among the recipients as the oldest organisation at 187 years old. Others included OCBC Bank, United Overseas Bank, Sing Lun Investments, Keppel Singmarine and Hong Leong Investment Holding.

Mr Kwek Leng Beng, executive chairman of Hong Leong Group, said: "Hong Leong Group has persevered, overcome challenges and grown in tandem with Singapore. We remain committed to support our Government's efforts to take the country to the next level of development."

tsjwoo@sph.com.sg