Singapore to be a reliable node in global supply chain and build internal resilience: Chee Hong Tat

Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry Chee Hong Tat told a conference on national and job security that companies and workers also have to prepare for the future. ST PHOTO: GIN TAY

SINGAPORE - Singapore has to build its reliability as a node in the global supply chain, while also keeping an eye on the resilience of its own internal supply networks, said Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry Chee Hong Tat on Thursday (July 2).

He told a conference on national and job security that companies and workers also have to prepare for the future. The virtual event was organised by Human Capital (Singapore), which trains and develops people managers to carry out best practices in human resources.

This is especially so since the coronavirus pandemic has affected many businesses and employees around the world.

"The global economy is experiencing both a supply and demand shock. Supply chains have been disrupted, as countries imposed lockdowns and export bans. Even as countries are gradually reopening their economies, travel restrictions remain," Mr Chee said.

"To enhance supply chain resilience, some countries may respond by home-shoring certain production and restricting exports - especially for essentials, such as food and medical items - while others will strengthen their interdependence with other economies. As a small and open economy, Singapore's response cannot be the former. We must continue to look outward and find our relevance in the new world."

He added that Singapore is keeping its ports and production lines open to ensure that trade flows unimpeded, which shows that it is reliant in times of crisis.

"While many countries have closed their borders, Singapore has worked hard to maintain our connectivity and openness to the world. This is a critical element in upholding our reputation as a trusted hub and responsible stakeholder in the international community," he said.

He brought up the example of mask manufacturer Medicom, which is headquartered in Montreal. It announced in June that it would locate its new surgical mask manufacturing facility here.

Mr Chee said: "These investments will create a diversity of good jobs in research, product development, manufacturing and commercial functions."

But internally, Singapore also needs to constantly review its sources for essential items, he added.

For instance, it is establishing new networks and diversifying supply sources and markets in food to ensure long-term food security.

"We have diversified our food imports to source from over 170 countries and there is potential for us to deepen our engagements further," he said.

"I am also heartened to see businesses adapting to disruptions by actively exploring new markets. Thanks to their efforts, consumers now have a wider variety of products to choose from, such as eggs from Poland and the Republic of Korea, and shrimps from Saudi Arabia."

Singapore is also working on building local capabilities, such as in urban farming and agri-food technology, he added.

But ultimately, workers and companies have to prepare for changes in the global supply chain by taking advantage of opportunities in the digital economy.

Businesses can go overseas through e-commerce platforms, for instance. Workers can also upskill themselves through continual training.

"We must continue to help our businesses and workers build stronger capabilities, so that our economy and supply chains can adapt well and emerge stronger in the new normal," he said.

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