Singapore must work hard to stay relevant to the world, says Chan Chun Sing

Minister in Prime Minister's Office Chan Chun Sing said Singaporeans should be more willing to venture to places others may be less willing to go to. ST PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN

SINGAPORE - For Singapore to continue transcending its geographical limits, it must work hard at staying relevant to the world and never taking that relevance for granted, Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Chan Chun Sing said on Monday (Oct 30).

In economics, this means capitalising fully on the global network of ideas - both by having Singaporeans spend more time abroad as well as work collaboratively with talent in other countries, he said.

Citing his own experience of working in Jakarta for two years when he was a military officer, he said he learnt a great deal from it.

Singaporeans should be more willing to take up oversea work postings and venture to places others may be less willing to go to, such as cities other than New York, London, Beijing and Tokyo, he said.

"The big multinational corporations and start-ups are looking for people who understand not just the Singapore market but the regional and global market. So for Singaporeans to get those much-sought-after jobs, you must have an international, regional exposure," he added.

At the same time, Singapore needs to stay attractive to talent from overseas, whether they move to Singapore to work or simply "come through" Singapore, he said.

For instance, Singapore will never have enough talent in blockchain in the short-term to build up the industry, he said of the up-and-coming disruptive technology. "Then the question is, how can you tap onto the global network to get those ideas."

Asked if Singapore will consider dual citizenship - an issue linked to the global flow of talent - Mr Chan said there are "security considerations" for not having it.

As Singapore is small and vulnerable, citizenship comes with the responsibility to defend the country, he said. While it may be easier to imagine dual citizenship between Singapore and a faraway country like Switzerland, it gets harder for countries close to Singapore, he added.

"I have to be very confident that when we go into operations, we are all aligned in our motivations and our objectives. That must be true for any military," he said.

Mr Chan was speaking at an hour-long dialogue with members of the Foreign Correspondents Association of Singapore. Other topics he covered include the Oxley Road dispute and the fourth generation of political leadership.

Turning to foreign policy, he said staying relevant involves constantly trying to understand what are the interests of other nations, and trying to find common ground between them and Singapore's own interests.

It is the reason Singapore chose to open Changi Naval Base to the Americans and the Chinese - to add value to its relations with the two powers, he said.

Noting that Singapore, unlike bigger countries, has no natural right to be invited to international conferences, he said: "We have to earn our keep. And for a small country to earn our keep, it is never easy."

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