Senior Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam gave his take on several issues during a virtual dialogue at the Singapore Tech Forum yesterday.
ECONOMIC RECONFIGURATION AND CHINA
Contrary to what some might think, globalisation is not on the decline. Instead, what the global economy is seeing is a reconfiguration as a result of China's evolution, said Mr Tharman.
He noted that the biggest trend was the evolution of the Chinese economy. "It is getting larger. (China is) having a much larger middle class consuming a lot more. (They) are having much more capabilities domestically, able to produce within China what was previously imported, and that might give the impression of some waning of globalisation.
"But actually, it's the same story - it's about a country that's emerging and moving up the global value curve and creating more value for itself and others," he said, noting that China's exports are stronger than ever, even amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
The global economy is still the future, he said, noting that big tech companies still set up offices in different parts of the world and have teams internationally.
The coronavirus might have thrown a spanner in the works for some of these firms in terms of international expansion, but Mr Tharman said the pandemic has also accelerated real-time unified global management, where companies are managed not by individual sites but as a whole.
This, he added, is possible through data flows, which are global and instantaneous, making them efficient.
THE NEED FOR RESILIENCE
Covid-19 has made clear the need for resilient hubs which international companies can count on to continue doing business in a stable manner, even amid unprecedented challenges.
What companies could also be seeking now are hubs - places where they can feel assured that despite any disruptions, their businesses will be able to continue, Mr Tharman said.
Singapore's aim is to be a multi-faceted hub that corporations can rely on to steer them through crises like the coronavirus pandemic, he added.
"Our future is as a hub - a hub for talent, local and foreign; a hub that is connected to the rest of the world as efficiently as possible, and where data in particular flows in and out without friction; but also a hub in the new sense that is very important, which is about resilience - predictable, reliable, and resilient."
COVID-19 AND BELIEF IN THE PUBLIC GOOD
An emerging differentiator between countries arising from the pandemic is whether people believe in civic-mindedness, or what Mr Tharman referred to as the "public good".
Societies such as Singapore, South Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan and New Zealand have managed to bring their infection numbers to low levels because their people respect the public good, the senior minister noted.
If people think that wearing face masks and respecting norms to keep Covid-19 at bay are less important than their own personal rights, everyone is going to be worse off in a society, he added.
"Your chances of succumbing to Covid-19 are much greater if people think it's just a matter of free choice and independent individual preferences. But if you believe in the public good, in everyone playing their part, then everyone is better off," he said.