Terrorism or technology, the world must prepare for disruptions: Tharman

Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam at the opening day of The Singapore Summit held at the Shangri-la Hotel on Sept 16, 2016.
Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam at the opening day of The Singapore Summit held at the Shangri-la Hotel on Sept 16, 2016.ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

SINGAPORE - Governments and societies have to prepare themselves for major disruptions, whether in the form of terror attacks or technological change, so as to remain resilient in the aftermath.

Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam said on Friday that Singapore has an advantage in this regard - as a small nation, it knows it cannot be complacent.

"We know we have to move, we know we don't have many choices, so when we have an economic challenge, when we have the challenge of terrorism, or whatever challenge it may be, it has to be addressed forthrightly, openly and we have to find a way of moving," he told an audience of some 400 global political and business leaders at the Singapore Summit.

This is not an easy task, he noted in his dialogue with British journalist Nik Gowing. The job of governments and educators have become more difficult because change is happening much more frequently than before, he said.

This means it is not enough to invest in people in the first 12 to 18 years of their lives, as they will face a lifetime of change.

"We must be able to invest in them throughout life, so they can cope with change and if they get out of the labour market we need to get them back in as quickly as possible - often in a different job or a different sector altogether," he said.

"It requires active government intervention, working with employers, working with training agencies and giving people the sense that they can be optimistic even in a world of technological change."

Closely intertwined with that is a need for the state to incentivise people to take on personal responsibility and effort, he added.

"There's a very important space in public policy… for state activism to support personal effort and responsibility at work, in the way we raise our families, the way we go through education. Anyone who puts in effort deserves some support. And if you do it well it becomes social culture."

yasminey@sph.com.sg