Big challenges for small nation in new world order

Mr Lionel Loi Zhi Rui raised a very good point when he said that although globalisation is inevitable because of long-term gains, Singapore has to ensure that everyone is given a fair chance to succeed ("Learn from evolving trends in immigration, trade"; last Saturday).

There are lessons to be learnt from what is happening in the economies of Britain and the United States.

However, Singapore, as a small nation, also needs to cope with many complex disruptive changes brought about by technological advancements, negative interest rates, geopolitical tensions over the South China Sea, labour migration, a rapidly ageing population, rising healthcare costs and the high expectations of a well-educated populace, to name a few.

Singapore needs to formulate new economic models for the future and excite the next generation to dream and create new mindsets, new ideas and new wealth on a sustainable platform. All this should not only generate long-term, positive economic developments but also create gainful employment for all citizens.

We need to precipitate entrepreneurship and innovation, with a dare-to-fail spirit, removing the stigma of failure and bankruptcy.

We should review our cost of living and competitiveness, as well as how we now prioritise our allocation of resources.

We should consider releasing up to 40 per cent of all government scholarship holders upon completion of their studies and inducting these talents into local small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) as catalysts for future economic activities.

This way, SMEs can be rejuvenated, and, given the manpower assistance, will drive innovation and generate more broad-based employment.

Past policies over the years have inadvertently created the mental norm for the measurement of success.

Furthermore, the current thinking that acquisition of property and asset appreciation are the ways to create wealth and a passive income stream in our retirement has caused great anxiety for many.

We should not demarcate and differentiate the masses with terms such as "neighbourhood heartlanders", "high-net-worth individuals", and so on.

Material wealth, while of categorical value, is not the entirety of our intrinsic worth .

We are all Singaporeans and stakeholders in our own country.

In this new world order and economy, we may need to pace ourselves and recalibrate our core values to accentuate well-being, mutual respect, social grace and responsibility, confidence, happiness, gainful employment, family and nation building.

Only then can we truly ensure that everyone is given a fair chance to succeed.

Sum Kam Weng

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 18, 2016, with the headline 'Big challenges for small nation in new world order'. Print Edition | Subscribe