Simplify rules and hew to their principles, to help businesses manage demands: Ong Ye Kung

Businesses need to keep in mind that the fundamental objective of a company is to be enterprising, competitive, and create growth and jobs, said Health Minister Ong Ye Kung. ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH

SINGAPORE - Business growth, workforce safety, inclusiveness and climate change are just some of the many things businesses need to worry about in the present age.

But to juggle these demands, the lessons learnt in governing a country can be applied to running a company as well, said Health Minister Ong Ye Kung on Tuesday (Aug 30) at the Singapore Corporate Awards (SCA).

For one thing, rules should be simplified as much as possible, without compromising on standards.

Mr Ong said: "This may mean doing away with rules that have accumulated over the years and may have become duplicative or less relevant. It may mean repurposing them to be risk-focused and easier to apply."

Drawing on his experience in managing the Covid-19 pandemic, Mr Ong gave an example of how numerous rules were set up at the height of the Delta wave of infections last year, such as those related to quarantine and safe distancing.

They soon became too burdensome, and the multi-ministry task force tackling the pandemic, which Mr Ong co-chairs, had to cut them down to only three.

Businesses should also learn to draw a distinction between rules and principles.

"We need to avoid the mentality of ticking the boxes," said Mr Ong. "If we internalise the principles behind the rules, the rules become less burdensome. We start to exercise our own judgment to fulfil our own objectives, and rules become a guide."

Wearing masks indoors was no longer mandatory from Monday, in a yet another step taken by the authorities here to relax Covid-19 restrictions.

While the authorities still want to control the pandemic, it is making the call to allow people to use their own judgment, said Mr Ong.

Businesses also need to keep in mind that the fundamental objective of a company is to be enterprising, competitive, and create growth and jobs.

How organisations go about doing this should not be prescribed by rules. Instead, companies should be entrepreneurial, break new ground, and do well commercially, Mr Ong said.

Co-organised by the Institute of Singapore Chartered Accountants, Singapore Institute of Directors and The Business Times, the awards - held at The Ritz-Carlton hotel - recognise excellence in corporate governance at Singapore-listed companies.

In the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic, there has been a new wave of business confidence in Singapore, which is well connected and well regarded by key markets. It is also seen as a safe place to invest, and able to control a health crisis, said Mr Ong.

He said the award winners uphold the spirit of good corporate governance, and contribute to the larger good while delivering good business performance.

The SCA was launched in 2005 and consists of seven key awards - Best Managed Board Award, Best Chief Executive Officer Award, Best Chief Financial Officer Award, Best Investor Relations Award, Best Annual Report Award, Best Risk Management Award, and the Special Recognition Award.

UOB deputy chairman and CEO Wee Ee Cheong (left) and Vicom CEO Sim Wing Yew won the Best Chief Executive Officer Award in their categories. ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH

Each award has three categories - large, medium and small in terms of market capitalisation. This year, a total of 32 companies and six individuals were awarded.

Some of the winners this year include CapitaLand Group and DBS Group Holdings, which bagged three company awards each. CapitaLand Group also won another individual award.

Meanwhile, UOB's Mr Wee Ee Cheong, Vicom's Mr Sim Wing Yew, and InnoTek's Mr Lou Yiliang were awarded the Best Chief Executive Officer Award in their respective categories.

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