Singapore's new collaborative approach to reignite economic growth in a post-Covid-19 world

DPM Heng Swee Keat (left) and Minister Desmond Lee with Emerging Stronger Taskforce members on Nov 19. ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH
DPM Heng Swee Keat with Emerging Stronger Taskforce members on Nov 19. ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH

SINGAPORE - As Singapore resets its economy to navigate a post-pandemic world, it has decided to take a fresh approach to growth and initiated several projects that could hold the key to the future.

These range from the safe and gradual resumption of large-scale conferences to a trial of autonomous shuttles, revealed the Emerging Stronger Taskforce (EST), six months after it started exploring new ideas to reignite the economy.

The EST is also adding a new area of focus, medical technology, which will look into developing diagnostics for diseases like Covid-19 and cancer. It is also looking at tie-ups with South-east Asian partners.

Giving an update on the work of the task force on Thursday(Nov 19), Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat noted that it has taken a new approach to collaboration under which industry-led groups dubbed Singapore Together Alliances for Action are given leeway - much like start-ups - to prototype new ideas.

"This is in keeping with the spirit of Singapore Together, where we work in partnership to achieve more than the sum of our parts," said Mr Heng, referring to the movement he and his fourth-generation colleagues started to give citizens more say in policymaking.

"This new approach to economic growth will propel our economy through Covid into a new normal post-pandemic," he added.

Members of the task force said at a press conference that this has allowed the private and public sectors to work alongside each other as partners - rather than as regulators and the regulated.

PSA International group chief executive officer Tan Chong Meng, an EST co-chair, described it as "crossing the stream while feeling the stones", rather than feeling all the stones and mapping out the way before crossing the stream.

This has borne fruit. A project by the meetings, incentive travel, conventions and exhibitions alliance, to pilot rapid testing at mass events, saw all visitors to last month's Singapore International Energy Week tested on the spot before being allowed into the venue.

The alliance on robotics has initiated a project which will see early versions of autonomous vehicles deployed by the end of the year.

And the alliance on supply chains has brought together 50 organisations to create a set of data standards that will allow different segments of the supply chain ecosystem to work together.

The other four alliances are looking at sustainability, digitalising the built environment, smart commerce and education technology.

In all, the seven alliances have collectively engaged over 600 people and over 330 businesses, trade associations and chambers, and public agencies, among others.

Minister for National Development Desmond Lee, the other EST co-chair, said this agile approach to collaboration can be a competitive advantage for Singapore and may soon become the norm.

He added that it is key to be nimble as the task force has identified six shifts in the global economy from which opportunities will emerge: A changing global order; a rebalance between efficiency and resilience in supply chains and production; digital transformation and innovation; changes in consumer preferences; greater focus on sustainability; and accelerating industry consolidation and churn.

In navigating these shifts, the task force is guided by two themes, Mr Lee said, that must underpin the future economy: A Singapore that is connected to the world, and one that is sustainable for the environment and inclusive for its people.

He called on people to share their ideas through the EST's new website, saying: "The EST needs both the support and the ideas and creativity of Singaporeans to build a Singapore that enables virtually unlimited possibilities."

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