WhyItMatters

Fresh ideas for charting future

The committee tasked with charting Singapore's economic future is a diverse one, and necessarily so.

Chaired by Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat, the 30-member Committee on the Future Economy comprises individuals from a wide range of backgrounds. Five members are political office-holders, with one holding a concurrent position in the labour movement.

There is one other representative from the labour movement. The remaining 24 members include lawyers, consultants, business leaders of large and small firms, and representatives with a background in the social sector.

Past committees - led by then Deputy Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in 2001 and then Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam in 2009 - had a larger proportion of government representatives.

The group's composition reflects the complex demands of policymaking in an increasingly volatile and unpredictable world, and the need for Singapore to continuously refine its niche in the global economy. For instance, the inclusion of Mr Forrest Li, founder and group chief executive of gaming company Garena, is a nod to the fast-growing tech sector where Singapore is looking to gain a stronger foothold.

The committee's diverse make-up also signals the extent to which social policies have become intertwined with economic goals in Singapore, as the country grapples with a greying population and shrinking local labour force. These challenges mean that policymakers and employers will not only have to plan for an older workforce but also find ways to maximise existing resources.

The ongoing productivity drive - a product of the previous Economic Strategies Committee set up in 2009 - has been an effort to do just that, albeit with mixed results over the past five years.

This illustrates the difficulty of the new committee's task, and the need for diverse voices to come up with fresh solutions.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 24, 2015, with the headline 'Fresh ideas for charting future'. Print Edition | Subscribe