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S'pore must push ideas, not papers

I am glad that the Government is cognisant of the limitations of an economic model based on having companies set up their headquarters here ("Learning culture ensures workers have the right skills"; Feb 5).

While not debasing the contributions of staff working at their company's headquarters, my observations of them are worrying.

First, they tend to be bureaucratic in nature, and compliance is paramount, leaving virtually no room for thinking out of the box or taking risks.

Second, they have little or no direct exposure to market competition, and are prone to conceptual or academic endeavours, rendering them unable to function effectively in business or operational units.

Third, the revenue of headquarters is essentially derived from transfer-pricing decisions, not measures of real economic output and technological capabilities.

This leads to a paper economy rather than a product economy.

While major cities in bigger countries can sustain themselves by being solely a financial centre or headquarters centre, Singapore cannot do so.

Rather than just push papers, it has to position itself as an economic powerhouse and push ideas to deliver advanced products and services.

Ho Chee Khuen

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on February 12, 2017, with the headline 'S'pore must push ideas, not papers'. Print Edition | Subscribe