Singapore firms need to become multinational corporations: Ong Ye Kung

Mr Ong Ye Kung said that local firms need to tap technology and innovation to transform themselves for the future.
Mr Ong Ye Kung said that local firms need to tap technology and innovation to transform themselves for the future.ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

SINGAPORE - Singapore firms need to become multinational corporations and venture overseas amid growth in the region, a point made by Mr Ong Ye Kung, Acting Minister for Education (Higher Education and Skills) on Wednesday.

Mr Ong noted that Singapore has attracted investments in the past, especially from MNCs, which created jobs and upgraded capabilities of workers. Local firms now need to do the same.

"With an Asian century ahead of us, we have to do what MNCs used to do for us, to have our companies and our talent venture out to the region, and grow our external wing.

"All Singapore companies are encouraged to provide opportunities to their talent to gain experience outside their comfort zone, in a regional market, in a wide array of expertise. This is strategic to our next phase of development", he added.

Mr Ong was speaking at the topping out ceremony of CapitaLand's Raffles City Shenzhen in China, which is slated to open in the second quarter of 2017.

Companies must also tap technology and innovation to transform themselves for the future as traditional business models are being disrupted by new technologies.

He cited retail as an example where there is an increasing recognition that online shopping and the physical store can be complementary.

"Amazon has opened its first brick-and-mortar store in Seattle, and has promised more to come. After spending years disrupting traditional book stores, it is now taking lessons learnt from its online operations, to build an offline bookstore that best meets the needs of customers", Mr Ong noted.

Talent development and the way technology is harnessed, he added, can help companies to be more competitive.

Mr Ong, who is also co-chairman of the Singapore-Guangdong Collaboration Council, drew similiarities between Singapore and China, in that both economies are undergoing transformation. China is moving beyond quantity of growth, to also emphasise quality of growth; while Singapore seeks to go beyond being just the corporate headquarters from where businesses are managed.

"Singapore needs to be the enterprise headquarters - a test-bed where solutions are developed and propagated, and a platform for companies to internationalise their business", Mr Ong said.

Noting the potential impact of enterprise and innovation, as well as the importance of quality growth, he said Singapore and China can work together to leverage each other's advantages and "chart our future together".

Singapore is China's largest foreign investor, while China is the Republic's largest trading partner. As the two countries deepen their links, places like Shenzhen will have a "catalytic and demonstrative effect", Mr Ong said.

Shenzhen has continued to reinvent itself, from a manufacturing powerhouse to a leader in hi-tech infocomm. It is home to leading companies like Ping An and Tencent.

In 2015, Singapore's bilateral trade with Shenzhen crossed US$9 billion (S$12.4 billion), which accounted for 10 per cent of total trade between Singapore and China.

The Republic has invested US$1.5 billion in over 750 projects in Shenzhen from 1979 to 2015. One project is CapitaLand's Raffles City Shenzhen in Nanshan District. The development comprises a 70,000-square-metre mall, a 23-storey Grade A office tower and a 182-unit Ascott-branded serviced residence. CapitaLand said in a statement yesterday that the retail mall has achieved a committed occupancy of over 50 per cent, a year ahead of its opening.

wongsy@sph.com.sg