How Singapore can tackle competition

Skyline of Singapore's Central Business District (CBD).
Skyline of Singapore's Central Business District (CBD).ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

Singapore faces fierce competition ("We will be here for one another on next lap: PM Lee"; Jan 1).

Our ageing workforce could erode our economic gains, which means that the Government should focus more on developing human capital. Our formula for strong growth has worsened inequality and driven up asset values and costs to a degree that is hard to reverse, and this threatens our competitiveness as a regional hub.

Compounding the problems are our ageing population and the clampdown on immigration which has resulted in a labour shortage.

We have also imported high levels of debt that make the Government, our corporations and Singaporeans more sensitive to rising interest rates and capital outflow. We need to focus on boosting our productivity, which is lower than other economies with comparable gross domestic product per capita levels.

We should continue to improve our quality of education by having smaller classes and highly educated and well-paid teachers, along with revamping our system of standardised tests by focusing more on innovation and collaboration.

We must keep our workforce active via programmes that improve and upgrade worker skills and encourage retirees, housewives and the unemployed to rejoin the workforce.

Such measures could boost productivity in our small but strong workforce.

By leveraging the entrepreneurial knowledge of foreign companies, they can help us to develop more patents per capita and intellectual property rights focused on value-added products and services.

Our weakest point is our lack of risk-takers. We should encourage more venture capitalists and investors to promote technology by creating an environment that allows, encourages and facilitates entrepreneurship.

Our government-linked companies must continue to take the lead in international mergers and acquisitions, and spin off specific business lines to become more internationally focused.

Tackling competition head on is a challenge we face daily and we need to reinvent ourselves speedily.

Francis Cheng

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 09, 2016, with the headline 'How Singapore can tackle competition'. Print Edition | Subscribe