Singaporeans urged to be bold innovators

In his speech yesterday, Mr Liang Eng Hwa said producing innovators and entrepreneurs should be part of Singapore's education system. Arts and sports programmes should be made available to more students.
In his speech yesterday, Mr Liang Eng Hwa said producing innovators and entrepreneurs should be part of Singapore's education system. Arts and sports programmes should be made available to more students.ST FILE PHOTO

The future may no longer be one where a bigger country beats a smaller one like Singapore.

Rather, the scenario might be one where it is "the fast that beats the slow and the imaginative will eat the lunches of the uninspired", said Mr Liang Eng Hwa (Holland-Bukit Timah GRC) yesterday.

In his parliamentary speech which focused on the need to transform the economy from one that adds value to one that creates value, Mr Liang urged Singaporeans to be innovators and entrepreneurs, and make "bold moves" to make that happen.

Singapore can no longer rely on its economic strategy of the last 50 years, especially as the country nears its limits on manpower growth and land space.

It does, however, have conditions that are ripe for this shift in direction, he argued, citing the Republic's robust economic fundamentals, adaptable workforce and political stability.

The Republic is also famously business-friendly, has one of the best legal frameworks for the protection of intellectual property rights, and offers ready access to public and private funds, making it the perfect environment for start-ups to grow in.

The challenge lies in spotting and seizing those opportunities that could blaze a new trail.

The Committee on the Future Economy - comprising 30 members from the private and public sectors - has been tasked with identifying future growth industries and markets and aims to complete its study by the end of this year.

Mr Liang said the Government Parliamentary Committee for Finance and Trade and Industry, which he chairs, will participate in discussions with the Committee for Future Economy.

Dr Teo Ho Pin (Bukit Panjang) asked the Government to provide more incentives for businesses to move into "future economy" clusters.

"This involves relocating existing supporting businesses and building new business clusters for 'future economy' industries, including smart city technologies, medical and pharmaceutical manufacturing, or finance and professional services," said Dr Teo, who is also Mayor of North West District, yesterday.

But producing innovators and entrepreneurs should be part of Singapore's education system.

In his speech, Mr Liang urged the Education Ministry to move away from a "high-stress, high-stakes" environment focused on exam-based academic performances towards one that encourages critical and creative thinking. Schools also should not segregate students based on their abilities and talents, but make programmes such as those for the arts and sports available to more students. "In the economy of the future, having good subject-based knowledge is important but not enough on its own," he added.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 28, 2016, with the headline 'Singaporeans urged to be bold innovators'. Print Edition | Subscribe