Enterprises and government should work as partners to simplify business rules: Chan Chun Sing

(From left) Mr Leo Yip, civil service head and Pro-Enterprise Panel (PEP) chairman; Mr Chan Chun Sing, Minister for Trade and Industry; Dr Tan Wu Meng, Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Trade and Industry and Foreign Affairs; and Mr Teo Siong Seng, Singapore Business Federation (SBF) chairman; launching the new PEP-SBF logo on Nov 26, 2019. ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

SINGAPORE - The business community and the Government should work together to simplify rules to help Singapore's economy remain competitive, said Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing on Tuesday (Nov 26).

Mr Chan told the Pro-Enterprise Panel-Singapore Business Federation (PEP-SBF) Awards 2019: "This is something unique in Singapore. And this is one of our competitive advantages. We work in partnership, we don't compete against one another. We compete as a team against others."

The Pro-Enterprise Panel (PEP), which comprises business leaders and senior public officers, needs to go beyond acting on businesses' feedback to change and improve government rules and regulations, he added.

This should involve devising rules to support new business ideas and pioneer regulations to facilitate growth, Mr Chan said.

The PEP was set up in 2000 and has received more than 2,000 suggestions, resulting in around 1,000 rule changes for the business community.

To take it forward, Mr Chan said an upgraded version that stresses the importance of partnership between businesses and government agencies should be in place.

"We need partnership 2.0, where businesses and government debate, deliberate and co-create a business environment that is conducive," he said at the event, which attracted around 200 business people and government officials at the National Gallery.

"This is also key to how we see governance going forward. It is never about one party highlighting their challenges or problems and leaving another party to solve it," Mr Chan added.

"But instead the Singapore approach is that when we see a problem be it raised by the government or businesses, we will all come together to solve it together because we are one Team Singapore."

Singapore was ranked No 1 in a recent global ranking of the most competitive economies. And simpler business rules and having regulators who are responsive to change contribute to that high ranking, Mr Chan noted.

"Our next challenge is to beat ourselves to have higher standards and higher benchmarks for ourselves. Not just because we can be number one in the world ranking, but so that we can do justice to the potential of our people and businesses," he added.

SBF chairman Teo Siong Seng noted in a separate speech that the local business community needs to work more closely with the Government to maintain Singapore's competitiveness, especially in the era of rapid technological change and uncertainties.

"With disruption being the norm, the pace of technological change and innovation has accelerated. It is important that the public agencies continue to be nimble and flexible in their formulation of regulations," said Mr Teo.

He urged the Government to continue to identify new areas where rules can be simplified: "In areas where there are no existing regulations, ministries and agencies can work closely with the business community through open and frank consultations."

Mr Teo said he hopes that the government, in taking a more holistic approach in rules-making and fine-tuning existing ones, will help reduce the regulatory and compliance burden on the Singapore businesses that are already facing cost and competition pressures.

Mr Chan also unveiled a new PEP logo that symbolises an active conversation between businesses and the Government.

There were 16 awards given out to businesses, trade associations and public agencies to recognise their efforts in improving Singapore's business environment.

Three local companies won awards for their feedback that led to significant improvements in the business operating environment.

The Floating Donut Company, which operates doughnut-shaped boats cruising in the Marina Bay reservoir where food and drinks are served, was honoured for pushing to remove regulatory hurdles for its business.

Founder Miriam Becker told The Straits Times that she was grateful that the PEP helped get five separate government agencies together to the same negotiating table.

"There were a lot of issues to overcome, and by having a chance to have them all sit at one table, I could try to find solutions to make it work," she said.

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