Constant evolution is key to economic strength and must remain so as Singapore moves towards an "innovation-driven economy", said Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam yesterday.
Mr Tharman told about 350 staff and veterans at the EDB (Economic Development Board) Society's 25th anniversary gala dinner: "Successful economic development is not about avoiding errors or strategies that fail to pay off, but about changing course soon enough.
"Most countries that have failed or stagnated have done so not because they made errors, but because they failed to change course when conditions changed, and failed to recognise the writing on the wall. We have avoided that so far, and must continue to stay alert to a changing environment."
Mr Tharman, who is also Finance Minister, noted at the Fullerton Hotel function that Singapore has advanced "not by getting everything right in the first instance, but by constantly evolving our economic strategies, decade by decade".
Awards for those who paved the way
Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam presented the Distinguished Fellow of The EDB (Economic Development Board) Society Award 2015 to four outstanding individuals, for their contribution to nation-building and the economic prosperity of Singapore.
Among them was Mr Lim Ho Hup, 85, EDB's first local managing director when it was set up in 1961. Following Singapore's exit from Malaysia in 1965, Mr Lim pioneered many initiatives to create jobs for Singaporeans.
"I encourage all young Singaporeans to take chances and be bold in your vision. We did, and you all now live in it," said Mr Lim.
MR J. Y. PILLAY, 81
Mr Pillay joined the EDB in 1961 and later led the projects division.
MR YEO CHEOW TONG, 68
Mr Yeo joined the EDB as a projects officer in 1972.
MR LEE YOCK SUAN, 64
Mr Lee joined the EDB as a projects officer in 1969.
• The late Dr Goh Keng Swee
• Former Cabinet minister S. Dhanabalan
About 350 EDB staff and veterans attended the EDB Society's 25th anniversary gala dinner held at the Fullerton Hotel.
When Singapore became independent, the country set a strategy for job creation by focusing on manufacturing.
In the late 1970s, the focus turned to wage growth through higher-value-added production. In the 2000s, the search for various growth engines set diversification as a new strategy, he said.
Mr Tharman emphasised that Singapore has embarked on a "new phase" in its economic development that involves a shift "from value-adding to value creation" and "mastery of skills in every vocation". He added that SkillsFuture, a national programme still in the works that "aims to give every Singaporean a fulfilling career", is key to preparing the workforce for the new "innovation-driven economy".
But SkillsFuture requires a "concerted effort" from government agencies, industry and individuals themselves, he noted.
Senior Minister of State Lee Yi Shyan will lead the SkillsFuture outreach to businesses, while EDB will take charge of seven of the 25 sectoral manpower plans. The sectors are aerospace, marine, chemicals, electronics, logistics, biopharma and precision engineering.
"EDB will work closely with all stakeholders in these sectors," said Mr Tharman, who also presented the Distinguished Fellow of The EDB Society Award 2015 to four leading pioneers for their contributions to nation-building in the 1960s and 1970s.