Singaporeans must recognise country's reliance on globalisation

Given its heavy reliance on trade and migration flows, Singapore undoubtedly needs globalisation.

Yet, even as the world is moving away from it - with both United States presidential nominees now opposing the Trans-Pacific Partnership and pandering to popular politics - many in Singapore remain oblivious to our reliance on and the global resistance to globalisation.

Even more take the status quo for granted, while assuming, even though post-crisis recovery has been sluggish, that growth will continue.

Look no further than the growth projections for Singapore this year.

Warning that the economy will be in for a tough period for a few years, Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam has said that growth "will probably end up somewhere at the lower end of the 1 to 2 per cent range" ("Expect period of lower growth, warns DPM"; Thursday).

Mr Tharman added that Singapore cannot keep growing by increasing manpower, and has to get productivity up.

Competitive advantages in the twin pillars of high-value manufacturing and services are also eroding, and the constant references to the SkillsFuture movement for lifelong learning and the Committee on the Future Economy for restructuring will not be adequate.

Two trends should follow.

First, the Government has recognised that low-skilled and low-income Singaporeans are the ones who will experience the inevitable ramifications of globalisation, and they would therefore need short-term unemployment assistance and long-term skills development.

It may be tempting to dismiss the concerns of the disenfranchised as ignorance, but unaddressed anxieties may result in disillusionment.

Second, in addition to the responsibilities of the Government, Singaporeans, in general, must develop a greater sense of urgency.

Reaffirming the country's vulnerability will be a good start, though in the future - when more workers will have to transition between careers, retraining and relearning in the process - we will also have to shed our complacency.

In this vein, the onus is on us as workers to stay ahead of the curve and remain relevant, or risk being left behind by the world.

Kwan Jin Yao

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 01, 2016, with the headline 'Singaporeans must recognise country's reliance on globalisation'. Print Edition | Subscribe