Help those who've 'lost out' from globalisation: Tharman

Merits of global trade need highlighting but more help must be given, says Tharman

Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam speaking at the launch of the Wong Fong Industries headquarters in Joo Koon Circle on Sept 28, 2016. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

The benefits of globalisation need highlighting more than ever now but those who are losing out from global trade must be helped, said Deputy Prime Minister and Coordinating Minister for Economic and Social Policies Tharman Shanmugaratnam yesterday.

He made these comments at the first edition of the Singapore-France Economic Forum (Les Rencontres Economiques in Singapore) yesterday.

The event's theme was "Europe and the Asian Century: Keys for the World Economy" from an economic and financial perspective, and is being held over two days at the ESSEC Business School, Asia-Pacific Campus here.

The event is meant to provide a platform for exchange and gathering of business leaders, academics, institutions, policymakers, think-tanks, as well as students from both regions.

Mr Tharman told the forum that more than ever before, there is a temptation to withdraw from things global, especially in the advanced world.

The shock results of both the Brexit referendum, which saw Britons voting to leave the European Union, and the United States presidential election, won by Mr Donald Trump, have widely been attributed to working-class voters expressing their dismay at being left behind by globalisation.

Mr Tharman said: "The only positive strategy forward is to stay open, find ways in which we can have increased cooperative internationalisation, but do far more to help those who lose out.

"First, we have to focus not just on redistribution, but regeneration... Regeneration has to be a primary focus of public policy."

Second, societies have to address "the vexing issue of productivity growth".

Mr Tharman said: "We have to tackle that widening gap between firms. Speed up learning, speed up the spread of the latest practices, latest software, latest ideas, latest equipment, and latest management practices. From leading firms at the frontier, to the rest."

Finally, he said, education is key. "We have the opportunity of creating many more technologically enriched jobs and to augment human abilities with technology. And we've got to prepare ourselves for that."

He added that "we have to find a way in which we can keep reinvesting in people, reinvesting in their skills throughout life".

Yasmine Yahya

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 25, 2016, with the headline Help those who've 'lost out' from globalisation: Tharman. Subscribe