Parliament: Plans to transform economy being refreshed

Mr Heng addressed suggestions on policy changes that will help businesses seize opportunities amid the disruptions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Mr Heng addressed suggestions on policy changes that will help businesses seize opportunities amid the disruptions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.PHOTO: ST FILE

Work is under way to refresh Singapore's plans for transforming the economy, said Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat.

Speaking in Parliament yesterday, Mr Heng addressed suggestions from several MPs on policy changes that will help businesses seize opportunities amid the disruptions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

For instance, Mr Edward Chia (Holland-Bukit Timah GRC) said the pandemic was disrupting global supply chains, and this was a good opportunity for local firms to expand into the region.

Mr Heng agreed. To help businesses keen on doing so, he said there are schemes that can help, like the Market Readiness Assistance Grant, Enterprise Development Grant and Double Tax Deduction for Internationalisation.

Mr Chia also said innovation in local firms can be bolstered by technology and design, which will help them stand out. Mr Heng said there is a need for firms here to work together across industries to innovate, and noted similar points made by Ms Jessica Tan (East Coast GRC) and Mr Shawn Huang (Jurong GRC).

Mr Heng also encouraged firms to tap the Government's Open Innovation Platform, which allows businesses to crowdsource innovative solutions from more than 9,000 companies for their problems.

Such efforts, he added, are part of moves to refresh the sector-specific industry transformation maps (ITMs) - introduced in 2016 to spell out specific plans to promote innovation, deepen capabilities and encourage links between complementary industries.

He said: "We are consulting widely across industries and firms as we refresh our ITMs."

Associate Professor Jamus Lim (Sengkang GRC) also spoke about activating a Plan B to get local firms to transform and go regional.

In response, Mr Heng said: "The fact of the matter is that this economic transformation has been our plan all along. And in fact, all these years, we have been reinventing our economy over and over again."

There are also opportunities for firms in the push for sustainability, he added, citing a point made by Ms Cheryl Chan (East Coast GRC) earlier on the importance of equipping workers with the relevant skills for the sustainability sector.

That is why Singapore has set up the Energy Efficiency Technology Centre, which offers programmes to train Singaporeans in these sectors, said Mr Heng.

The centre, which was launched last year and cost $5 million to set up, also helps small and medium-sized enterprises assess their energy efficiency and improve their energy performance.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 16, 2020, with the headline 'Plans to transform economy being refreshed'. Subscribe