Study how to harness benefits of globalisation

Globalisation is a multilayered phenomenon that has no universally accepted definition. There are competing perspectives, with many players promoting their partisan ideologies, values and interests.

These have major ramifications that can affect countries, cultures, and communities in different ways ("Leaders need to make people see how globalisation benefits them: PM"; last Tuesday).

Globalisation has many upsides as well as downsides that cannot be underestimated. It poses a tectonic change to the socio-economic landscapes in both our country and elsewhere.

While we cannot stop globalisation, we can manage it to our advantage and make it beneficial and more equitable for the people.

We have to ensure that it will not benefit only a small segment of the people. It also should not cause our Gini coefficient to widen and create a cascade of negative effects.

Globalisation can improve our competitiveness, create jobs and improve the workforce's knowledge, competence and productivity.

However, it can also create a culture of helplessness and fear for those who are unable to catch up and leverage the global game, including many elderly workers, less educated and skilful ones, and those who have been made obsolete by disruptive technologies.

Globalisation made it possible for companies to relocate to another country or outsource their operations to enhance their strengths and sustainability.

However, an uncontrolled shifting of industries and businesses can lead to a brain drain, loss of jobs, a lowering of workers' income, and unnecessary shocks to the economy and society.

While globalisation can make a wider variety of talents, products, services and other resources more available, affordable and accessible, it can also promote unhealthy values, weaken our core identity and culture, have a negative impact on our environment, and raise the risk of disease spread.

In the past, globalisation has helped us build a developed and widely admired economy.

Moving forward, globalisation can put pressure on us to develop unhealthy social welfare schemes, which may run contrary to the strengthening of our fighting spirit and promotion of self-reliance and continuous improvements.

As we prepare our nation and our people to be future-ready, we need to deepen our studies on how we can reduce the risks of globalisation and reap its values and benefits.

We need to educate our people on the impact and challenges of globalisation and prepare them accordingly to survive and succeed in an increasingly interdependent and interconnected world.

Patrick Liew Siow Gian (Dr)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 25, 2016, with the headline 'Study how to harness benefits of globalisation'. Print Edition | Subscribe