Committee of Supply debate: Ministry of Trade and Industry

More targeted help to spur manufacturing: Iswaran

Workers at Add-Plus, an electronics manufacturing company that makes printed circuit boards.
Workers at Add-Plus, an electronics manufacturing company that makes printed circuit boards. PHOTO: ST FILE

Sector-focused strategy needed, and not just enterprise-level response: Iswaran

More targeted help will be given to ensure that the crucial manufacturing sector is well-positioned for the future, Minister for Trade and Industry (Industry) S. Iswaran told Parliament yesterday.

His remarks came as the Government rolls out measures aimed at specific sectors to help sustain the growth of local industries.

Mr Iswaran said during the debate on the Ministry of Trade and Industry's (MTI) budget that changes in the global economic environment, such as China's in-sourcing of goods and services and new technologies, are affecting various sectors here differently.

"An enterprise-level response, while necessary, is not sufficient, given the nature and scale of these challenges," he said. "We need a broader sector-focused strategy - that systematically harnesses innovation, talent development and partnerships - to sustain the competitiveness and growth of our industries."

Ms Iswaran said the manufacturing sector continues to contribute significantly to Singapore's economy, accounting for nearly 20 per cent of nominal gross domestic product last year. While this was lower than the 21.4 per cent in 2010, the sector's real value-added rose $4.6 billion over the same period.

  • $3.9 billion

    Total bill; up 14 per cent.

    1-3%

    Singapore's economic growth this year.

    1-2%

    Overall workforce growth per year for the rest of the decade.

    $2 billion

    Loans expected in the next three years under the SME Working Capital Loan scheme.

He added: "Based on MTI's estimates, a $1 billion increase in manufacturing value-added through final demand increase will generate about $300 million of value-added and 2,400 jobs in the rest of the economy."

Mr Iswaran said the Government will also continue to invest in and promote manufacturing technologies such as additive manufacturing and robotics.

More than $450 million will go into the National Robotics Programme, which will include public- private partnerships between research institutions, companies and public agencies.

More infrastructure will be put in place to encourage greater interaction among enterprises, solution providers and researchers that could spark novel ideas and create new products and solutions.

Mr Iswaran pointed to the upcoming 600ha Jurong Innovation District (JID), which can help the manufacturing sector by housing several new growth areas, such as advanced manufacturing, robotics, urban solutions, cleantech and smart logistics.

The JID, which will have access to Nanyang Technological Univer- sity's research and engineering capabilities, can host the entire value chain, including research and development, design, prototyping, production and supply chain management. The JTC LaunchPad@JID next year will also support start- ups, incubators and accelerators.

The development planning and engineering work for the first phase of the JID project is already in progress and is slated to be completed around 2022.

To scale up for the next phase of restructuring, Mr Iswaran said the Government will introduce targeted efforts at the enterprise level to help businesses adopt technology and accelerate the pace of transformation for enterprises across industries.

The Automation Support Package, where $400 million will be available for more than 300 automation projects over the next three years, is key to this.

Beyond transforming industries, Mr Iswaran said it is also critical to fuel growth and value creation by generating new ideas, products, services and business models.

One way the Government will do this is to strengthen the start-up ecosystem by helping small firms scale up overseas, form partnerships with larger enterprises and nurture talent.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 08, 2016, with the headline 'More targeted help to spur manufacturing '. Print Edition | Subscribe