Look to space as next frontier for S'pore economy

A photo of the European Alps taken by European Space Agency astronaut Tim Peake on Dec 27.
A photo of the European Alps taken by European Space Agency astronaut Tim Peake on Dec 27. PHOTO: EPA

Education and constant exhortations may rectify societal ills, financial imprudence among our elderly retirees and the sense of entitlement among our young ("Negative trends to avoid in next 50 years" by Dr Quek Koh Choon; Tuesday, and "Let's resolve not to play defeatist role of victim" by Mrs Marietta Koh; yesterday).

For the nation itself on the global stage, we also need to face up to some negative developments for Singapore, as other countries far and near rev up their development, not so much to take away our lunch, but to improve the lot of their own citizens.

Entitlement does not exist in the international arena - you swim or you sink.

If we stand still, Singapore's natural geographical position as a hub for shipping will be history, as northerly neighbours devise strategies to bypass us.

Similarly, Changi's position as an air hub will be continually challenged by countries in the Middle East, which are far better sited than Singapore as a conduit between East and West.

We betted and lost in the semi-conductor business. There was a lot of promise in the field in the 1980s, but we have since lost out to electronics giants such as South Korea and Taiwan; our technologies simply could not catch up.

Our batting average is only so-so for the pharmaceutical industry, one fraught with the vagaries of the business.

Perhaps we should have gone into solar panel manufacturing in a big way, but with China so far ahead now, that avenue is lost.

In this respect, Tuesday's editorial is really interesting and highlights a positive trend ("Finding space to develop new niches").

Space is the final frontier that will allow the birth of many new and perhaps even unimaginable industries.

The exploration of space is definitely not a fanciful maverick venture, but a necessity through which the opportunistic and the entrepreneurial will gain ample reward.

As it stands, Nasa technologies have brought improvements in the fields of health and medicine, including better limb prostheses and ventricular devices, airport, public and tyre safety, and a whole host of improvements in the home and in the office.

Garnering solar energy from space and transmitting it back to earth promises far better efficiencies than focusing solar energy via earth-bound panels.

We may be small and we may be late into space, but better late than never, given that the potential seems infinite.

Yik Keng Yeong (Dr)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 31, 2015, with the headline 'Look to space as next frontier for S'pore economy'. Print Edition | Subscribe