Emerging Stronger Taskforce: Avoid narrow definition of 'Singapore core', says DPM Heng

Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat said jobs and skills transformation will be a key part of the task force's work.
Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat said jobs and skills transformation will be a key part of the task force's work.ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

SINGAPORE - The "Singapore core" should not be too narrowly defined in terms of whether someone is Singapore-born, a new citizen, or a foreigner who is helming a company, said Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat on Monday (May 17).

"That test for us must be the commitment to Singapore, the commitment to the well-being of Singapore and of Singaporeans," he said.

He was responding to a question at a virtual press conference by the Emerging Stronger Taskforce, on which term - "Singapore core", or "Singaporean core" - most accurately captures Singapore's workforce policy, and what global talent will be needed to implement the task force's recommendations.

Drawing on his own experiences running the Monetary Authority of Singapore during the 2008 to 2009 global financial crisis, Mr Heng said many chief executives of international banks in Singapore had given him outstanding advice on how to deal with the crisis - demonstrating that they had Singapore's interests at heart.

"Some of the CEOs from these banks are as Singaporean as Singaporeans who were born in Singapore and went through national service... in fact, some of them, whom I knew personally, had become Singapore citizens," said the minister, without elaborating.

The task force was formed last May to chart Singapore's post-pandemic recovery, and on Monday released a report outlining economic strategies to drive the country's transformation.

Mr Heng noted that Singapore would have to contend with the twin challenges of an ageing labour force that is growing slowly, as well as a digital, networked economy where it is going to be much more of a winner-takes-all situation.

"Nobody is going to be happy with a second-rate programmer, so what you need to do is for us (to) assemble the best possible team," said Mr Heng, who is also Coordinating Minister for Economic Policies.

Businesses and workers in various sectors will be able to benefit in the process, he added.

As a multiracial, multicultural and multi-religious society, Singapore must not end up like some other countries and territories in the world, where the fear of losing jobs leads to a protectionist instinct where people as well as goods and services from other places are kept out, he cautioned.

He said jobs and skills transformation will also be a key part of the task force's work, so that workers can benefit from these changes across various economic sectors.

"We want to equip Singaporeans to have that cultural sensitivity... to be able to go out to the region, to be leaders in building new connections. So we must have that confidence and the drive to do so," he added.

At the same time, he stressed, the authorities will put a stop to bad employment practices.

"On the whole, I think we must get our strategic direction correct - that we welcome people from all over the world who can add value to us, (and) who share our views."