Oct 29, 2015

    Committee to set Singapore's economic strategy will be formed by Dec

    THE Future Economy Committee chaired by Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat will be formed by early December and will charter a shift in the economy from value-adding to innovation and value creation, said the Minister yesterday.

    The committee will do this by setting strategy for Singapore in five broad areas, in consultation with unions and trade associations. Such discussions have been ongoing for weeks now, Mr Heng told reporters after speaking to Singapore Business Federation (SBF) members at a closed-door dialogue at the SBF office.

    Minister for Trade and Industry (Industry) S. Iswaran will be the deputy chairman of the economic committee, and the other members will be announced by early December, said Mr Heng. The committee will submit its report about a year later, he added.

    "We have some names and we are looking for a diverse group that can bring in fresh perspectives," he said. "We should be prepared to ask difficult questions."

    The committee will focus on "five futures", broadly the future of jobs, the future of companies, the future of technology, the future of resources and the future of markets, said Mr Heng.

    On the future of jobs, Mr Heng said that technology is not only creating more jobs in the digital innovation space, but it is also changing the nature of jobs. For example, additive manufacturing is changing how factories are being configured, and even in knowledge-intensive scientific fields, firms are finding that they need a more diverse skills profile among their scientists to improve their products.

    "One very important area is how we work with companies to redesign jobs to take into account the needs of the future," said Mr Heng.

    He added that the SkillsFuture plan to help the nation's workers upskill is "progressing well".

    Notably, productivity - the big target outlined by the last economic review committee back in 2010 - was not highlighted by Mr Heng in his outline of the "five futures".

    One reference he made to productivity was that it was part of a "virtuous cycle", whereby higher skills results in higher productivity, and thereby higher wages.

    When asked about this, Mr Heng said: "The essence (of the new strategy) is moving towards higher skills and that addresses productivity issues quite well. At the end of the day, if you're asking about measures, it's about creating good jobs and good opportunities (for Singaporeans)."

    Mr Heng also emphasised that the new committee is not being formed "in a time of crisis", rather, at at time when the economy is growing.

    He noted that the Government is "monitoring very closely" the slowdown in the global economy "but, at the same time, we must keep an eye to our medium-term restructuring".