Speed up restructuring to meet external challenges

Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam has warned that there would be a slowing down of growth in the United States and China in the coming years, and the two economies are going through cyclical and structural changes that would affect us ("World affairs 'shifting to a new phase' "; last Saturday).

He added that workers have to learn new skills, the Government will work with companies to create "innovation chains", and parents and teachers should provide children with more diverse learning experiences and be less obsessed about grades.

These are not anything new.

But these messages have to be repeated before we take them seriously or take action.

The external dynamics are transpiring fast.

The question we have to ask ourselves is: Have we started to re-orientate our mindset and come up with plans on what to do?

Our Government is playing a leading role; but more can be done.

We need new strategies and policies to speed up the process.

For example, we have been relocating our lower value-added manufacturing overseas for over two decades.

We should try to help industries move up the value-adding chain so that our hard-earned experience can be put to use on home ground.

Some government agencies may have to change their orientation and organisation too.

For example, the Economic Development Board is divided into many industrial clusters.

In view of the growing opportunities from China, it perhaps could form a stronger unit specialising in and targeting China.

For too long, we have been talking about needed changes in our teaching and examination systems.

We have been putting too much emphasis on academic learning.

There were some achievements made in tertiary education recently, but how about primary and secondary education?

We have signed new and expanded agreements with many of our trading partners in recent years.

We have to translate these into easy-to-understand terms for our businesses to grasp new opportunities and face new challenges ahead, and help them benefit from these arrangements and settings.

Ng Ya Ken

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 24, 2015, with the headline 'Speed up restructuring to meet external challenges'. Print Edition | Subscribe