Committee on the Future Economy report: Strategy 3: Strengthen enterprise capabilities to innovate, scale up

Report a blueprint for S'pore's future

The Singapore skyline. PHOTO: THE BUSINESS TIMES

The report of the Committee on the Future Economy (CFE), after more than a year of discussions, may not have offered ground-breaking ideas, but it does serve as a comprehensive blueprint for the economic principles to keep Singapore sturdy in an uncertain future.

This, in short, was the feedback from economists, business chambers, business leaders and consultants who perused the report after its release yesterday.

OCBC Bank economist Selena Ling said the CFE recommendations, which call for deeply skilled workers, innovative firms, an efficient Government and a connected city, "are not intrinsically different or totally ground-breaking from earlier government strategic plans".

However, they "reinforce the growing need to stay connected even amid an emerging shift by some of our key trading partners towards protectionism and insular growth", she noted.

Singapore Business Federation chairman Teo Siong Seng praised the CFE recommendations for providing "timely guidance for companies", but added that "the CFE recommendations will not be a panacea for all the challenges confronting Singapore".

Singapore must continue to build on the strong foundation of its people, institutions, rule of law, trust and assurance of high levels of service and quality. At the same time, businesses must be nimble and innovative, he said.

The Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry's president, Mr Thomas Chua, said that companies should refer to this report as they plan their strategies.

"Importantly, the future success of Singapore's economy depends on how well we build collective ownership, including our businesses, workers and ordinary Singapore citizens, to execute these CFE strategies to produce results."

The CFE report has also sparked interest among companies, especially those in high- technology fields.

Mr Ashwani Kohli, the Asia-Pacific head of UiPath, a robotic process automation provider, noted that the continued drive towards higher productivity will require an embrace of automation, which will free up Singaporean workers to do higher- value activities.

"Automation will augment Singaporeans' skills, not replace them. Of course, there will be a certain amount of disruption in terms of jobs, but the Government's initiatives surrounding skills training for workers to help them switch industries is the right way to address this."

Dr Sam Choon Yin, the dean and head of the School of Business and Management at PSB Academy, said his takeaway from the report was that risk- taking will be more important than ever.

"Gone are the days when an innovation can help to create a big fortune that can last for generations. Singapore needs to grow risk-taking and innovation in its social culture, as these are qualities the global economy rewards," he said.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 10, 2017, with the headline Report a blueprint for S'pore's future. Subscribe