CFE report: 7 strategies to take economy forward

The Committee on the Future Economy, co-chaired by Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat and Minister for Trade and Industry S Iswaran, outlined their proposed strategies in a report released on Thursday.
Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat and Minister for Trade and Industry (Industry) S. Iswaran, co-chairmen of the Committee on the Future Economy, arriving for the release of the CFE report yesterday.
Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat and Minister for Trade and Industry (Industry) S. Iswaran, co-chairmen of the Committee on the Future Economy, arriving for the release of the CFE report yesterday. ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

CFE stresses need to stay open and grasp new opportunities

Singapore must remain open and connected to the world, help its people acquire skills for jobs of the future, and ensure its companies scale up for a challenging climate through innovation and transformation.

This approach is at the heart of a masterplan unveiled yesterday to help the country navigate a more uncertain global environment in the next 10 years.

It outlines - in seven strategies - what the Government, people and companies have to do to stay nimble and adapt amid rapid technological change, subdued global growth and rising anti-globalisation.

The recommendations are spelt out in a 109-page report put out by the 30-member Committee on the Future Economy (CFE) after 12 months of deliberations.

"We cannot know which industries will succeed. What we do know is that Singapore must stay open to trade, talent and ideas, and build deep capabilities," it said.

 
 
 

"By being innovative, bold and willing to change; by remaining open to the world, and deepening our knowledge of markets everywhere; our businesses and people can grasp the opportunities this new environment offers, and Singapore can continue to prosper."

The CFE held discussions with more than 9,000 stakeholders, studied global trends and re-examined the country's operating assumptions to chart the next phase of growth.

Its assessment: Singapore is in a strong position, with opportunities to innovate, upgrade and stay relevant. Asia is also a bright spot, with prospects in areas ranging from finance to logistics, healthcare and urban solutions.

The committee laid out seven strategies to maximise Singapore's chances of success and assure workers of sustainable wage growth and meaningful careers.

One, Singapore must deepen and diversify its connections abroad.

Two, the country must build on SkillsFuture and support people acquiring and utilising deep skills.

Three, it needs to boost enterprise capabilities so that companies stay innovative and competitive.

Four, it needs to develop strong digital capabilities across all sectors of the economy.

To support these thrusts, the CFE called for three enabling strategies:

• Invest in infrastructure to build a vibrant, connected city.

• Adopt Industry Transformation Maps that tackle the needs of each sector and tap on synergies.

• Different groups, from trade bodies to unions, should work with one another to grow and innovate.

Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat, co-chairman of the CFE, said at a media conference yesterday: "What the CFE aims to do is to set out the direction and broad strategy rather than a detailed road map."

"We have to develop the agility and adaptability to cope with change and to seize new opportunities," Mr Heng added.

The strategies build on existing initiatives, and among the new plans are a Global Innovation Alliance to link tertiary institutions and companies with overseas partners, and using national service to develop niche skills in cyber security.

Another key recommendation is for regulatory agencies to be more supportive of risk-taking.

Minister for Trade and Industry (Industry) S. Iswaran, the other CFE co-chairman, said a more uncertain environment also means that companies need to collaborate more among themselves and with the Government.

In a letter to the CFE co-chairs, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said: "The Government has accepted the strategies proposed and will pursue all of them."

"The report epitomises how, in Singapore, Government, businesses and workers tackle challenges and seize opportunities together," he added. "Now the hard work begins, and every Singaporean has a role."

Ministers will respond during the Budget and Committee of Supply debates starting later this month.


Strategy 1: Deepen and diversify our international connections

Singapore must deepen global links, press on with open trade


Singapore must remain plugged into global trade and its people need to gain better knowledge of regional markets as the Republic embarks on the next phase of growth. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

Singapore must remain plugged into global trade and its people need to gain better knowledge of regional markets as the Republic embarks on the next phase of growth.

That is the thrust of a key strategy unveiled by the Committee on the Future Economy (CFE), tasked with charting the blueprint for the country's growth in the long run.

In its report released yesterday, the committee noted that as an open, trade-dependent economy, Singapore "must resist the threat of rising protectionism" amid current anti-globalisation sentiment.

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Committee on the Future Economy report: Strategy 2: Acquire and utilise deep skills

Panel suggests more modular courses to help workers reskill


Helping workers acquire and use deep skills was one of the seven strategies spelt out by the Committee on the Future Economy (CFE) yesterday to prepare Singaporeans for upcoming challenges. ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

As their jobs change, workers will constantly need new and deeper skills to cope. Modular courses could be one of the ways to enable them to keep pace as they enter a future that requires lifelong learning.

Helping workers acquire and use deep skills was one of the seven strategies spelt out by the Committee on the Future Economy (CFE) yesterday to prepare Singaporeans for upcoming challenges.

As technologies and jobs are likely to change at a faster pace, "we must go beyond the pursuit of the highest possible academic qualifications early in life, to seek knowledge, experience and skills throughout life", said its report.

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Committee on the Future Economy report: Strategy 3: Strengthen enterprise capabilities to innovate, scale up

Boost IP regime, start-up ecosystem and fund-raising options


Twenty-three financial institutions opened their fintech labs and innovation centres to visitors during the FinTech Festival at Fusionopolis. PHOTO: ST FILE

A stronger intellectual property regime, a more vibrant start-up ecosystem and a wider variety of fundraising options for high-growth companies.

These are some essential ingredients to make Singapore a choice location for innovative companies developing products and solutions for the world, according to the Committee on the Future Economy (CFE).

"Our economy is only as strong and resilient as each of our enterprises can be competitive," the committee noted, adding that this effort requires government agencies, industry and other stakeholders to work together to build an ecosystem for innovation and enterprise growth.

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Committee on the Future Economy report: Strategy 4: Build strong digital capabilities

Singapore growth depends on strong digital capabilities


The committee cited ride-hailing app makers Uber and Grab as examples of new businesses that came out from data science projects. PHOTO: ST FILE

Singapore's economy must be built on strong digital capabilities to continue to grow in the long term.

This is one of seven broad recommendations outlined in the Committee on the Future Economy (CFE) report released yesterday.

The report comes after one year of consulting with 9,000 stakeholders, including trade associations, public agencies, unions, companies, academics and students.

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Committee on the Future Economy report: Strategy 5: Develop a vibrant and connected city of opportunity

Creating a well connected Singapore physically and digitally


People walking in front of shops along Orchard Road. PHOTO: ST FILE

The Orchard Road shopping belt could be transformed into a place with more cultural performances and regular programmes, wider walkways and more sheltered paths, if a recommendation by the Committee on the Future Economy (CFE) becomes reality.

This is part of a broad strategy to create a vibrant city that is full of opportunities and is well connected to the rest of the world.

This is "connected", both in the catchphrase digital sense of the word, and physically - for example, the CFE said one way of being well connected globally is by improving Singapore's air, land, sea and digital links with other countries.

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Committee on the Future Economy report: Strategy 6: Develop and implement Industry Transformation Maps

Adopt cluster approach to foster synergies across industries


The committee says that the ITMs can be improved through a cluster approach, and that precision engineering firms, for example, could become more competitive with support from companies in other manufacturing sectors. ST FILE PHOTO

The development of Industry Transformation Maps (ITMs) will play a key role in positioning Singapore's economy for the future, said the Committee on the Future Economy.

The ITMs, which are blueprints to strengthen local industries, are part of a $4.5 billion programme announced in the 2016 Budget to promote growth, help companies become more competitive and create good jobs in 23 sectors.

The committee said in its report that the ITMs can be improved by adopting a cluster approach "to foster synergies across industries, not just within industries".

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Committee on the Future Economy report: Strategy 7: Partner one another to enable growth and innovation

Firms, workers, unions and Govt must strengthen partnerships


The office crowd in the Central Business District in Singapore. PHOTO: ST FILE

The Government could spur innovation among local firms by issuing challenges to solve specific problems, while unions should do more to help workers retrain.

These were just a few of the various recommendations made by the Committee on the Future Economy (CFE) yesterday as it encouraged everyone, from workers to the Government, to strengthen their partnerships to ensure continued growth and innovation in Singapore in the years to come.

"Our path ahead is uncharted. Unpredictable economic, technological and geo-political changes are affecting life and business in every country, and will require each of us to rediscover our place in and value to the world," the committee said.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 10, 2017, with the headline '7 strategies to take economy forward'. Print Edition | Subscribe