4G leaders' transition an evolution, says Iswaran

Minister for Communications and Information S. Iswaran speaking to Singapore media on May 24, towards the end of a four-day visit to Paris.
Minister for Communications and Information S. Iswaran speaking to Singapore media on May 24, towards the end of a four-day visit to Paris.PHOTO: BUSINESS TIMES

Growth strategies are increasingly complex, so they have to work more closely together, he says

Singapore's growth strategies are increasingly complex and involve multiple government agencies - so fourth-generation (4G) ministers have to work more closely together than ever before and rely on one another's judgment, said Minister for Communications and Information S. Iswaran.

Mr Iswaran, who is also the Minister-in-charge of Trade Relations, added that 4G ministers will take time to develop into bigger roles and responsibilities - a process which should not be hastened.

He was speaking to Singapore media on Thursday towards the end of a four-day visit to Paris, which included meetings with French officials, including President Emmanuel Macron, as well as public-speaking events.

The transition to Singapore's fourth generation of leaders "is an evolution, not a revolutionary process", said Mr Iswaran. "We have to be careful in not wanting to hasten things artificially."

He also noted that many of the issues ministers work on cut across various ministries and sectors.

The Future Economy Council chaired by Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat, for instance, has implications across ministries and many ministers are involved in different ways. And policies related to skills upgrading and industry development might sit within a particular government agency but actually cut across multiple ministries.

"This is reflective of the fact that we are in a more complex environment, where it is not easy to categorise and say this is a particular type of issue for a particular ministry," Mr Iswaran added.

PLUGGING IN

France is eager for its innovation and start-up ecosystem to be connected with the world. In particular, they have high regard for Singapore's innovation and start-up ecosystem.

COMMUNICATIONS AND INFORMATION MINISTER S. ISWARAN, who is also Minister-in-charge of Trade Relations.

Cross-ministry work gives ministers opportunities for more interaction but also means they have to rely on one another's judgment. "I think this is going to be an important part of that evolution."

Mr Iswaran said there is widespread support for the trade deal between Singapore and the European Union (EU), with key European leaders keen to have it ratified as soon as possible.

The initialled agreement now needs to be approved by the Council of Ministers and ratified by the European Parliament.

The aim is for it to come into force before the European Commission's mandate ends next year.

Mr Iswaran said more time is needed to produce an EU-Asean trade deal, as "the potential is greater but so are the complexities".

"But I know the governments of Europe, and in particular France and Germany, see the value of doing something broader with Asean."

Mr Iswaran was in Paris till yesterday for the France-Singapore Year of Innovation 2018, which aims to ramp up innovation and research linkages between the two countries. Besides attending official meetings, the minister visited a major innovation and technology festival called Viva Technology.

"France is eager for its innovation and start-up ecosystem to be connected with the world. In particular, they have high regard for Singapore's innovation and start-up ecosystem," Mr Iswaran said.

Given that Singapore is similarly keen to develop global links, "we want to see how both sides can plug in to each other's activities so that there can be mutual benefit".

France is Singapore's second-largest trading partner in the EU and the 16th largest globally. Total trade with France last year was close to $17 billion.

Around 1,900 French companies are based in Singapore.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 26, 2018, with the headline '4G leaders' transition an evolution, says Iswaran'. Print Edition | Subscribe