Dec 22, 2015

    Group set up to plan future S'pore economy

    A COMMITTEE tasked with charting the course of Singapore's economic future will be made up of 30 members, including government officials and leaders of companies large and small.

    Known as the Committee on the Future Economy, it will study five key areas: future growth industries and markets, corporate capabilities and innovation, jobs and skills, urban development and infrastructure, and connectivity.

    The committee is chaired by Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat and aims to complete its work by the end of next year.

    Minister for Trade and Industry (Industry) S. Iswaran is the deputy chairman. Acting Minister for Education (Higher Education and Skills) Ong Ye Kung, National Development Minister Lawrence Wong and the Secretary-General of the National Trades Union Congress, Chan Chun Sing, are also on the committee.

    The majority of the members - 25 out of 30 - are leaders of business associations and multinational companies such as Shell and the Boston Consulting Group as well as local enterprises such as the Timbre Group, ST Engineering and Sing Lun Holdings.

    Mr Heng said the formation of the committee comes at an "important juncture" for Singapore, with businesses and workers "facing difficult adjustments" in the face of slowing global growth and rising costs.

    "We have not only put together a committee of diverse expertise and experience, but we will also engage key stakeholders and our people," he added.

    "We hope to go beyond seeking their views, to working with and supporting them to lead and champion some of the transformation processes."

    The practice of setting up such a committee is not new - similar efforts were undertaken in 2001 and 2009.

    Members said both Singapore and the world have changed significantly since the last committee put out its recommendations. They also noted that this committee will have to tackle a wide range of issues, from disruptive technologies to the ageing population's impact on Singapore's limited labour resources.

    Edward Chia, the managing director of dining and live music chain Timbre Group, said it is essential that Singapore "find that balance for technology to complement the human workforce" in its efforts to become a "smart nation".

    "Technology is sometimes mistrusted in many industries as it has the potential to displace workers. However, harnessed well, technology can certainly play an important role in labour-constrained societies like in Singapore," he noted.

    Another key focus involves ensuring that people at all stages of life can contribute to the economy, said Chia Yong Yong, a consultant at Yusarn Audrey, a law firm specialising in intellectual property.

    "(This includes) looking at the extent to which one truly retires and what happens post-retirement," added Ms Chia, a former Nominated Member of Parliament. She is also president of SPD, which supports people with disabilities.

    "I hope to share more about how skills can be built and jobs redesigned for persons with disabilities and retirees, through training, public education, collaboration between public, private and people sectors, and the use of mainstream and assistive technology."

    In addition to long-term challenges, the committee should also tackle shorter-term issues such as the cost and manpower constraints businesses are facing, said Singapore Business Federation chairman Teo Siong Seng.

    "(The committee should look at) adjustments to our current economic policies to address businesses' immediate concerns, so that they can successfully transit through the current difficult period into the future economy," he added.

    Additional reporting by Jeremy Koh