Competing abroad 'a matter of survival' for Singapore firms

Mustering the courage to go overseas and compete on the global stage is not so much an ambition as it is a matter of survival for Singapore companies, Singapore sovereign wealth fund GIC president Lim Siong Guan has said.

Just as the Republic punched above its weight and thrived as a global brand itself, Singapore companies also need to have that do-or-die spirit in exploring their overseas opportunities, he added.

Mr Lim was speaking yesterday to businesses attending the Human Capital Singapore (HCS) Internationalisation Forum.

"Unless and until the Government and companies in Singapore recognise that getting out in the world is an existential issue - not an ambition, but an absolute critical necessity - nothing will happen.

"Because until we recognise that, there will never be a pronounced sense of urgency and enough willingness… (that is) necessary in order to succeed in getting out of Singapore. There is no alternative."

Companies must also take the initiative to act because "starting only when you are desperate is a bad time to start", he added.

Mr Lim is one of Singapore's long-serving officials who chaired the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority, the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore and the Economic Development Board, among other agencies. He was appointed to his current role in 2007.

For businesses to stand out on the global stage, "you need to be really good in what you're doing, and then to build up the trust factor that allows people to be willing to work with you".

But having the courage to compete and be No. 1 despite physical constraints is just as important.

"As I look back at Singapore's success in the past 50 years, we had not succeeded by following other people, and we are not going to succeed in future by thinking of following other people," said Mr Lim.

Businesses need to have that same mindset as these history lessons are just as relevant today, he added. "I don't think our formula for succeeding is in its fundamentals any different from the past."

Wong Wei Han

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 24, 2016, with the headline 'Competing abroad 'a matter of survival' for Singapore firms'. Print Edition | Subscribe