SINGAPORE - Government support will increasingly be more focused on helping firms transform and seize new opportunities in new markets, said Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing on Friday (Feb 5).
He told an audience at Enterprise Singapore's (ESG) annual review that Singapore also has to strengthen itself as a critical node in the global value chain and forge new trade rules in growth areas.
The minister said that while the Government has responded swiftly and decisively to support businesses and workers through the course of the pandemic, Singapore's resources are ultimately finite and must be used judiciously. "This means that while we will continue to support our businesses, we will not be able to do so indiscriminately," he said.
"The weight of our efforts going forward must increasingly be targeted and shift towards helping our enterprises seize new opportunities in new markets, through new products and services," he added.
"So it's not sufficient to play defensive by trying to preserve existing enterprises and current jobs only. It is even more important for us to create new opportunities for enterprises, to create new job opportunities for our workers, especially jobs that are essential to the new economy."
The Government also wants to spur innovation among local firms regardless of size, said Mr Chan.
This will be done through supporting the creation of new innovative start-ups, encouraging more private sector investment in deep tech start-ups, boosting apprenticeship initiatives and tapping key global innovation nodes.
There is also much potential for firms in the green economy, he noted.
"We will support them in areas including developing sustainability-related standards such as carbon verification, growing capabilities in sustainability and accessing new business opportunities in this space," he said.
ESG chairman Peter Ong agreed, adding: "In the midst of current volatilities, enterprises will need to be highly agile to pivot as the situation affords. We will need to pick out the pockets of growth whenever and wherever we find them.
"Enterprises will need to harness innovation to meet new needs, and compete beyond pricing. We encourage them to develop new business models and intellectual property, or innovative products and solutions. Differentiate themselves through reinforcing brand attributes and providing greater value-add."
Besides innovation, going international is also important, despite the challenges posed by the coronavirus, Mr Chan said.
"Covid-19 has also emphasised the limitations of Singapore's small domestic market and the need to continue to push ahead with our internationalisation efforts. While internationalisation activities slowed in 2020, we maintained a positive momentum," he said.
To this end, Singapore must also build its own core of local firms that can compete globally in niche areas, while firms can also tap international agreements to access new markets.
Mr Ong added that companies need to prepare themselves so they can quickly capture demand, with markets such as China and South-east Asia presenting new opportunities.
"While travel restrictions remain, overseas expansion will always remain a key growth driver."
Firms can go global by building capabilities, such as by increasing brand awareness through virtual platforms, he said.