Think big to answer broader questions on S'pore's future

With the formation of the Committee on the Future Economy, perhaps we should start addressing some of the broader questions about the future ("5 sub-groups to study key areas of Future Economy"; Tuesday).

How should we invest in the world that we are living in, or the world we should be living in?

How can we achieve stronger, more balanced, more stable, secure and sustainable growth? How can we resolve economic inequality and enhance social mobility?

How can we improve quality of life since that is the litmus test for the motives, means and ends of economic development?

There is a need to strengthen our repository of information and big data analytical resources.

In the brave, new, exciting world, we cannot afford to just tweak our current policies and fiddle with our existing infrastructure and systems.

We need to continue to redesign our economy and take major, including unprecedented, initiatives so that we will become an admired and lovable "unicorn" right through to SG100 and beyond.

This is to ensure that our policy development and decision-making processes are underpinned by relevant, accurate and up-to-date information.

In a fast-changing world, there is a need for environmental scanning and intelligence-gathering systems on a global basis.

These will help us predict economic and business trends, pre-empt opportunities, achieve first-mover advantages, move up the food and value chain, and become a market- and price-maker.

We need to implement major market and structural reforms to reduce economic uncertainty and reinvigorate the current level of growth.

These reforms are not just about developing new markets and sources of growth, but also about helping our local enterprises to continue to be competitive and to transform into global players.

We need to continue to attract high value-added and high-tech firms to invest in our economy, especially if they are well positioned in strategic areas such as the development of intelligent and eco-friendly cities.

With cutting-edge and innovative business models, they can help to boost economic investments and growth, and meet the expectations of a more educated and increasingly demanding workforce.

We also need to continue to attract and groom both local and overseas talent, to help resolve relatively low productivity output, the decreasing total fertility rate and the impact of an ageing population.

To do so, we have to aggressively tackle the undue concerns about foreign talent and the dangerous logic underpinning xenophobia.

We need to promote the fact that if the right foreign talent is effectively assimilated and integrated into the workforce, it can be a great benefit to society and the economy.

In the brave, new, exciting world, we cannot afford to just tweak our current policies and fiddle with our existing infrastructure and systems.

We need to continue to redesign our economy and take major, including unprecedented, initiatives so that we will become an admired and lovable "unicorn" right through to SG100 and beyond.

Patrick Liew Siow Gian (Dr)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 16, 2016, with the headline 'Think big to answer broader questions on S'pore's future'. Print Edition | Subscribe