Budget 2018 debate

MPs: More can be done to prepare economy for future

Singapore's economy will take years to transform, even as the Government rolls out its $4.5 billion plan to help companies innovate and expand overseas.

But while the plan, which involves rolling out Industry Transformation Maps (ITMs) across various sectors of the economy, is still being implemented, more can be done to prepare the Singapore economy and businesses for the future, MPs said in Parliament yesterday.

Workers' Party Non-Constituency MP Leon Perera, for example, said Singapore should position itself as an Asean hub for disruptive technology players.

Singapore should also consider suggesting "a bold, visionary project" that aims to transform Asean into a test-bed for innovation, he added.

For example, he said, Singapore could propose an autonomous vehicles initiative or an urban solar panel initiative for Asean.

Singapore could then be the financing hub for projects under these initiatives, and a place for the new technologies to be test-bedded before deployment across the region.

Meanwhile, Ms Foo Mee Har (West Coast GRC) noted that local companies are still very concerned that Government regulations have not kept up with the times.

"Companies do recognise that selected agencies have tried to do things differently, but they often voice their frustration of being tripped up by 'last mile' regulations," she said, adding that there should be a coordinated effort across agencies to update rules.

She also urged the Government to speed up the implementation of the ITMs and get more industry players to play a part, as private sector players feel they have not been adequately involved in the process.

Still, Nominated MP Randolph Tan noted that the ITMs have borne some fruit, including improvements in productivity.

Nominated MP Thomas Chua, meanwhile, raised a concern of small local retailers, that the impending GST hike will cause Singaporean consumers to go to Johor Bahru to do their shopping.

He said "the lure across the Causeway would only grow greater" with upcoming transport links between Singapore and Malaysia, combined with the strength of the Singdollar versus the Malaysian ringgit.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 28, 2018, with the headline MPs: More can be done to prepare economy for future. Subscribe