Future-proofing Singapore

The Straits Times

THIS WEEK'S TOPIC: What would be most essential for ensuring that the Singapore economy remains vibrant amid slowing global growth? How should Mr Heng Swee Keat's new economic committee position Singapore for the future?

Max Loh
Managing Partner, Singapore and ASEAN

SINGAPORE must cement itself as a trusted brand and the indisputable hub and springboard to the region, thriving on the positioning that nobody connects business to Asia like we do. We must sustain our earned reputation as a great place to live, work and do business because of our robust and stable economic infrastructure and inclusive society. Our human capital must be at the front and centre of a future-ready Singapore: building the most skilled and productive workforce to drive higher value-add activities; and enabling more of our brightest and high-potential Singapore companies to accelerate growth and be globally competitive. Singapore should also aspire to be the Silicon Valley of Asia, nurturing and attracting innovators and entrepreneurs to exploit market niches and gaps, and creating an enabling ecosystem that is founded upon a strong sense of public-private and cross-sector collaboration, simply because going forward, no one will be able to "do it alone" anymore.

Peter Ter Kulve
Unilever ASEAN and ANZ

AT Unilever, we remain very positive about Singapore's prospects, despite the current economic uncertainty in the region and globally. In fact, this is the time to invest in the long term and develop our strongest asset - people. We need to prepare people for the jobs of the future. For us, that means a digitally-enabled, sustainable and inclusive future where business makes a positive impact on society.

At our recent SG50 event themed "SGFuture50", we found 50 young Singaporeans who are indeed committed to ensure Singapore will not just be an economic success but one that is sustainable, inclusive and focused on improving the lives of all who reside here. Our priority should be to foster a culture of entrepreneurial innovation, sustainability and inclusiveness that encourages and equips Singaporean youths to make this vision a reality. If we can do that, we can all look forward to Singapore's bright future in the years to come.

Chia Ngiang Hong
Singapore Green Building Council

SINGAPORE'S economic policies have always been based on long-term sustained growth, though from time to time the government has had to respond to cyclical stresses with short-term measures. I hope that this fundamental principle will remain and Singapore continues to maintain a conducive environment to attract investments with sufficient latitude and impetus to promote growth.

The global economy of today is fast-changing and business models are rapidly evolving. One of our strengths as a city-state is the open and integrated way in which businesses are able to collaborate relatively easily with one another, both locally and internationally.

Such opportunities provide our businesses with invaluable insights and experience and we should continue leveraging on such nimbleness.

In light of the ongoing headwinds and expected stiff competition from regional and global economies, it is my sincere hope that the new economic committee will put forth pragmatic and robust proposals that will drive the economy forward, and yet allow flexibility and creativity in implementation. Measures that have been put in place to address specific circumstances should be reviewed, removed or tweaked to ensure Singapore remains open and competitive at all times. With concerted efforts from both the public and private sectors, we should be able to further sharpen Singapore's competitive edge.

Yeoh Oon Jin
Executive Chairman
PwC Singapore

SINGAPORE'S continued success depends on our ability to weather the on-coming economic headwinds and build four strong pillars for the country's future economy.

Productivity: Let's move our productivity journey to the next level and make "high performance" and "highly innovative" the defining characteristics of our future Singapore work culture. Let's shift our productivity emphasis towards supporting an enterprise economy and premium value creation.

Singapore multinational corporations (MNCs): In the future global economy, Asia will be centre stage and many Asian MNC players will emerge and dominate. Let's grow a strong base of local enterprises with potential to be global players, so that there will be successful Singapore companies among the Asian MNCs in the future global arena.

Second wing: Let's scale up Singapore's "second wing" and do more to help local businesses amid transformational changes to our trade and business ecosystem - Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), ASEAN Economic Community (AEC), One Belt, One Road (OBOR), etc.

Digital-preneurship: Let's help Singapore companies thrive in the new digital world. Let's nurture startups and "digital-preneurs" who dare to dream and represent Singapore in the new wave of digital giants.

Tan Tiong Cheng
Executive Chairman
Knight Frank Pte Ltd

OUR government has just received a strong mandate from the electorate to take Singapore forward. Yet, for many Singaporeans the future looks hazy with many uncertainties. Competition is rising ever faster than before as various cities strive to be bigger, faster or better. Singapore, long known for its efficiency and systematic style of doing business, needs to stay ahead as a leading, liveable global business city to preserve our safe-haven status. This vision requires basic strong fundamentals of forging a pro-business environment where the rule of law, security, stability, transparency, a highly skilled workforce, quality infrastructure, connectivity and welcoming talent are to be maintained and enhanced.

More so, we need to uphold our top defining characteristic - trustworthiness; integrity and honesty are what put us ahead of our competitors. Cultivating the qualities of creativity, tenacity and grace and promoting entrepreneurship would help us to progress - and we can do it faster through political will and the collaborative efforts of both public and private sectors.

Judy Hsu
Chief Executive Officer, Singapore
Standard Chartered Bank

FROM my perspective, the continuing health and growth of the financial services sector in Singapore is imperative.

Two ongoing initiatives strike me as important.

First, in the journey to develop Singapore into a smart financial centre, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) recently launched the Financial Sector Technology and Innovation (FSTI) scheme, to co-fund financial institutions (FIs) in setting up innovation centres in Singapore to develop solutions that have the potential to promote growth, efficiency, or competitiveness. We fully support the FSTI as a way to increase innovation, as part of the wider FinTech agenda.

The SkillsFuture initiative seeks to ensure that FIs' development programmes continue to place emphasis on skills upgrading and continuous learning for professionals, managers and executives (PMEs). We are supportive of the various strands of this scheme, such as the Financial Sector "Earn and Learn" programmes, and are committed to working with MAS and the Institute of Banking and Finance on ongoing skills development.

Victor Mills
Chief Executive
Singapore International Chamber of Commerce (SICC)

BUSINESS leaders across all sectors need to continue to focus on innovation and growth. Communicating a sense of urgency to their teams about business strategy, skills acquisition and performance is key. Employees need to care about their jobs and strive for high performance.

Increased collaboration between large and small organisations would help share knowledge and disrupt the status quo by driving innovation. Much closer collaboration between academia, business and government will drive product and service innovation. This is an optimal way to fully exploit collective brainpower for the benefit of many.

Minister Heng Swee Keat's committee will doubtless focus on those sectors which most people in the consultative process believe are the most relevant to ASEAN and the wider world. Another key determinant will be which sectors will provide the best job opportunities for Singaporeans. On our part, we Singaporeans must keep reinventing ourselves through constant earning and learning to stay relevant.

Michael Jenkins
Chief Executive
Roffey Park

TO create opportunities for businesses and workers to thrive, the economic committee might usefully consider a five-point (5P) agenda:

People: Keep with the plan for boosting skills including the ongoing professionalisation of HR and the promotion of leadership effectiveness.

Productivity: Keep this issue centre stage; without a gradual improvement expect wage erosion and a decline in competitiveness.

Partnerships: Don't try to go it alone. Keep with the partnerships approach at the high level (international trade agreements) and micro-level (encouraging brave SMEs to ratchet up their international partnership strategies to develop business regionally and globally).

Pragmatism: Stick to the knitting, place a few calculated bets and maintain Singapore's ultra-pragmatic approach to managing the economy.

Pareto Effect: Focus on what looks most promising and effective in terms of positioning Singapore for the future and be firm, if not brutal, about what needs to be discarded.

Samir Neji
Managing Director
Anaplan Asia

THE government has shown great foresight in planning ahead to ensure that the economy remains strong. The latest iteration of the economic committee shows their recognition of the need for these plans to remain flexible in light of changing economic realities.

The new challenges that we will face have to be overcome by changing the way we do things. Only by fostering a culture of disruption across the country can we truly find the drive to constantly innovate and improve. With the limited resources in Singapore, continuous innovation is the key to our success.

This culture of disruption will be the driving force behind future innovation and help cultivate a sound ecosystem of entrepreneurs. As key contributors to technological innovation and new job growth, they will be the new drivers of "The Future Economy".

Jeffrey Hardee
Executive Director
Government and Corporate Affairs, Asia-Pacific, and Singapore Country Manager Caterpillar Inc

GIVEN the uncertain global economy, Singapore's financial strength is an upside and it can build on this with prudent investments to secure the country's future. Free trade initiatives like the TPP will also benefit Singapore.

However, three areas we would like to see the economic committee prioritise are innovation, sustainability and education.

Innovation will be critical to maintain Singapore's unique differentiators among its neighbours in the region.

Sustainability is important to ensure the country continues to stay liveable and attractive as a tourist destination, as a place to conduct business and work and as a place to raise families.

Education is a bedrock and the system needs to provide the country with a well-educated, willing and adaptive workforce to match the competitive global environment for work in and outside of Singapore.

Jim Li
Chief Executive Officer/Founder
JSB Tech Pte Ltd

AS Singapore continues to move into a knowledge and innovation-intensive maturing economy, entrepreneurship could become one among other key growth areas for a future vibrant economy. Particularly, technopreneurs create attractive jobs that are relevant to young people and better serve their aspirations for seeking a more flexible work environment and having creative ideas realised instead of conforming to the conventional path of working in an often hierarchical and bureaucratic setting of MNCs.

We believe far-sighted technopreneurs will continue to create many fascinating jobs for young people beyond the present decade. In fact, JSB Tech has leveraged on Singapore's world-class academic and research institutions and attracted some of the brightest graduates to develop, design and market our world-first, award-winning and technology-intensive products focusing on global-niche markets. For example, our patented eGeeTouch smart locking devices won an innovation award at the prestigious US Consumer Electronics Show in 2015 and the intelligent smartlocks won awards at Japan's largest DIY Homecenter Show in 2014 and also 2015.

Dileep Nair
Singapore's High Commissioner to Ghana

EVERY society's aspiration is the pursuit of happiness and overall well-being of its people. Once the basic needs for food, clothing, shelter, healthcare, etc, are met, the quality of life depends much more on our social relationships and our sense of purpose in life than on how much we earn or how rich we are.

A growing number of people in Singapore, particularly millennials, feel that we have reached a stage of development when we should examine whether economic growth should continue to be an end in itself. Indeed, they question if unbridled economic growth is actually sustainable. Would it be possible, instead, to move towards a steady state economy that avoids the need for unsustainable population growth? I believe so.

Being a small and open economy, and a price taker in this globalised world, it is a sine qua non that we must continue to be productive as well as competitive simply to survive. But equally important, we need to generate a societal consensus to aim at becoming a steady state or sustainable economy. This will require trade-offs in terms of benefits enjoyed by different constituencies.

However, by ensuring social and economic equity within our society, we could avoid the need to fuel unrealistic economic growth. The focus will then be on cultivating the social and spiritual dimensions of life than on acquiring more income or wealth. The ultimate goal of a sustainable economy must be to promote individual happiness and societal well-being. I hope these are issues that Mr Heng Swee Keat's committee will examine in some detail.

John Lim
Group Chief Executive Officer
ARA Asset Management Ltd

SINGAPORE has performed well over the last 50 years with a successful, growing economy that has weathered various market fragilities. To position Singapore as a dynamic global city of the future, we must continue to invest in both the hardware and software of things, including its people, enterprises and infrastructure. Singapore must continue to attract global capital and talent while investing in its own people to create a diverse workforce with specialist skills that will attract and retain high-value global companies. We can bring in new industries and innovation such as clean energy and smart technology to boost our infrastructural capabilities and add long-term intrinsic value to the economy. We should also grow the Singapore brand by focusing on a few things and doing these very well. For example, Singapore has its own niches in food innovation, real estate development, education, healthcare and clean water technology.

Simon Trilsbach
Vice President, Apac

ECHOING Mr Heng Swee Keat's thoughts, the next big leap for Singapore to remain vibrant and sustainable would be to continue driving higher productivity and an innovation-intensive economy forward. While Singapore may be smaller in size compared to its neighbours, it is important for companies to continue to push innovative thinking among its employees, adopt an entrepreneurial spirit and be nimble to change, especially as the market continues to evolve at a faster pace with the adoption of newer technologies. Social media, for instance, is set to play an even bigger and more integral role in shaping how people communicate and influence one another. As such, companies need to be ready to embrace the digital sphere and equip themselves with the right resources and tools, so as to ensure that the current lean workforce is able to adopt an innovative mindset and move ahead with time.

Pierre-Jean Chalon
Vice President and General Manager Asia-Pacific
Sonus Networks

AT the Smart Nation launch in November last year, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong stressed that the success of Singapore's economy depends on an increase in productivity, both at government and enterprise level.

In order to achieve it, citizens and organisations should keep up with technological innovation, which helps businesses to accelerate.

At Sonus, we believe that communication is crucial to success in today's highly competitive, global marketplace. Executives need to make decisions quickly, but the workplace is expanding to new frontiers, and information and employees are spread out in disparate locations. We're working anywhere, anytime, anyplace. As a result, cloud-based communication solutions are increasing productivity of employees, driving business results and enhancing collaboration across functions and borders. Moreover, providing the employees with new and effective tools to share information and ideas stimulates further innovation.

Businesses should make the best use of available solutions and keep investing in technologies. By being more productive, we will produce better results for our business, which will ultimately support Singapore's growth and keep its economy vibrant.

Patrick Liew
Managing Partner
Global Enterprise Exchange

AS our competitors are fast catching up on us, we need to continue to invest in upgrading our business infrastructure, global connectivity, and talent pool to support economic expansion and growth.

In the new economy, the battle line is defined by innovative value-addition of the enterprise as well as productivity of the workforce. There is, therefore, a need to look at economic growth from a holistic perspective.

It includes increasing productivity through transformational leadership; redesigning business models; developing new markets and businesses; creating and developing higher value-added industries and enterprises, innovating and marketing future technologies and services, developing game-changing business architectures, and creating synergistic relationships between these factors.

We should move up the value chain and become market-makers rather than price-takers in order to strengthen our overall growth.

Ben Elms
President - Asia-Pacific
Vodafone Global Enterprise

THE Future Economy committee's primary focus is obvious: productivity. In a tough global economic climate, only firms and economies that sustain productivity growth can stay competitive. Investments in productivity and collaboration technologies should be a main priority for Mr Heng Swee Keat's committee. This also supports Singapore's innovation agenda as a cluster for startups and research and development (R&D) from around the world. M2M (machine-to-machine) platforms which power smart city development can also dramatically increase workforce productivity in manufacturing and logistics; unified communications and collaboration technology enable local talent to compete in global services markets without relocating, keeping GDP and skills growth in the country.

JY Pook
Vice President, Asia-Pacific

SINGAPORE'S transformation from fishing village to metropolis will go down as one of history's most remarkable marches to modernity. One reason for Singapore's success is its ability to envision long-term horizons and muster political will to rally citizens around that vision.

Singapore will soon chart another economic milestone under the stewardship of Minister Heng Swee Keat. But unlike before, it simply cannot rely on the sheer force of labour but on the creative brilliance of its people to retain its status as innovation capital. Data is the currency of the new economy. In Singapore's Future Economy, people, businesses, and government must not only be able to quickly make sense of their environment but also be empowered to glean inspiration from the explosion of data that runs it, by themselves.

At Tableau we are committed to help champion a culture of self-service data analytics in Singapore through a wider adoption of fast and easy analytics among SMEs to raise their productivity and innovation, by imbuing data fluency among our children in schools, and by better serving customers and partners here with our new 50,000 square foot facility that commemorates and continues to contribute to Singapore's 50-year transformation, from third to smart world and beyond.

Joe Manning
Vice President, Pacific Asia
Abbott Nutrition International

SINGAPORE has been home to many of Abbott's investments in Asia - including a nutrition R&D centre, a manufacturing facility and a new pilot plant opened in Tuas earlier this year. We've been committed to growing with Singapore over the past 45 years - the country's dependable pool of global talent and the long-standing stability of Singapore's political environment make these investments fruitful. Looking ahead, we support Singapore on this successful path - encouraging innovation opportunities for companies like Abbott, so we continue to turn to Singapore as an R&D springboard to engage with the rest of emerging Asia. Singapore is often one of the first markets in Asia where we launch breakthrough technologies in healthcare and consumer-inspired nutrition to benefit the community here and across the region. Our hope is for Singapore to continue its investments to be Asia's innovation capital - to lead and showcase the use and adoption of scientifically-proven innovative health technologies.

Dhirendra Shantilal
Board Director and Head, Asia-Pacific
Fircroft Group

POLICY makers must recognise that our people are our strongest asset - to remain vibrant amid slowing global growth we need, more than anything, to invest in our talent. Singapore must begin to produce world innovators and senior executives capable of competing at the highest levels of the international playing field. More broadly, upskilling and retraining will allow more Singaporeans to move up the value chain and contribute more in terms of productivity and value to the economy. Another essential in terms of maintaining growth is strengthening the SME sector. Singapore is overly reliant on MNCs and GLCs but ultimately it's the vibrant SMEs that will drive our future growth and competitiveness. Policy and planning support should be extended to ensure that Singapore becomes an environment where mid-sized businesses can thrive.

Lee Fook Chiew
Chief Executive Officer
Institute of Singapore Chartered Accountants (Isca)

AS the competition for investments, resources and talent in the region intensifies, we need a skilled workforce that is capable of performing higher value work. This will allow us to differentiate ourselves from our regional competitors. Singapore needs to continuously innovate so as to remain relevant in a highly competitive environment. Innovation would help to grow the economic pie and increase our productivity. This, in turn, would create good jobs for Singaporeans in the long run.

Additionally, our conventional perception and approach towards success has to be redefined. The way forward is to encourage multiple pathways for progression, constant skills upgrading and technology adoption for our talent without borders. This will provide good jobs, increase productivity and wages, and ensure a thriving Singapore for tomorrow. Similarly, Isca has been driving change in the accountancy sector, by encouraging technology adoption and emphasising continuing professional education so that accountancy professionals' skills are up-to-date and relevant for the changing economy.

Matt Harris
Chief Executive
AIG Asia Pacific Insurance Pte Ltd

AS the world experiences economic slowdown and greater volatility, Singapore needs to constantly innovate to remain vibrant and dynamic. We should look at the opportunities these global challenges bring, and focus our efforts on identifying emergent growth areas and how we can develop new capabilities. This allows us to stay ahead of the curve and keep obsolescence at bay.

Science and innovation have been the buzzwords for some time, but it is now vital to have the science DNA ingrained in our workers of the future - from our education system to our continuing education and training infrastructure. Our youth should be equipped with new and relevant skill sets throughout their educational journeys to harness new technologies. Coupled with hands-on experience in these emergent fields, they can push the boundaries for technological advancements.

Our workforce needs to become more science-enabled - learn how to leverage technological advancements and innovation to adapt quickly to changes and thus help to increase their companies' productivity. Only then can we build a strong workforce that is nimble despite volatile market conditions, and ready for "the future of us".

Lim Soon Hock
Managing Director

IT is time that Singapore take the brave step, but not an impossible one, to transition from the present position of being dependent on the world for our economic growth and success, to one where the world is dependent on our little red dot.

Singapore has the capacity and capabilities to develop and mobilise all the requisite resources, in terms of talent and skills, as well as the financial capital, to achieve this new positioning or paradigm shift. We should continue to invest in talent development and skills upgrading, building on our solid foundation of a world-class education system, and strategic initiatives such as SkillsFuture.

The new focus should be on developing the human capital which will enable Singaporeans to be engaged higher up the value-add curve, be more productive and meeting (indeed, setting or exceeding) new world standards. In so doing, Singapore must be an operating hub of the world across a wide spectrum of industries and services. We are a vital node in the new world economic order, without which the chain of business will be broken or compromised.

This new human capital is also needed to support our SMEs towards not only becoming Fortune 500 companies, but also partnering global companies in the design and development of new products and services, perhaps even having co-ownership of intellectual property. Our next phase of economic development must nurture and groom Fortune 500 companies, as an important goal.

Daniel Rudolph
Henkel Singapore

AS Singapore works towards becoming the world's first smart nation, it will be essential to innovate the way we do business and adapt new technologies to ensure we remain sustainable and can thrive in today's dynamic economy.

At Henkel, we drive powerful innovations and develop leading technologies across industries, to create tailor-made and sustainable products for our customers. This value delivered to our customers, in turn, creates new solutions for tomorrow.

In addition, we believe that individuals need to cultivate a sense of leadership, not only on a team level, but also on a personal level. Through our talent management and Henkel's leadership principles - lead myself, lead team, lead performance, lead stakeholders and lead change - we aim to develop multi-disciplinary talents who have the necessary skills to be great leaders in a changing economic landscape.

Reuter Chua
Acca Singapore

IN order to work towards continuous economic growth, raising productivity levels is key in order to thrive in a fluid economy like Singapore's. Within the accountancy sector, it is crucial that the new economic committee provides incentives and programmes to transform the finance function in organisations.

Organisations must take the lead in ensuring the quality of finance leadership, adoption of new technologies, better people practices and innovation thinking. Business leaders must recognise the limitations of prevailing technologies, and employ the use of social, mobile, cloud and analytics technologies as strategic tools to drive growth. Along with these measures, a strong leadership and a healthy corporate culture will help Singapore achieve vibrant growth amid the slowing global growth.

In order to achieve this transformation, appropriate and accessible training within the context of lifelong learning is necessary. Programmes under the government's SkillsFuture initiatives should be enhanced and accelerated. Singapore will be well-positioned to address the challenges with the renewed emphasis on productivity growth, facilitated by accessible education and training for all.

Catherine Loh
Chief Executive Officer
Community Foundation of Singapore

AS we grapple with the challenges of an ageing population, the demand for social services catering to the elderly will surely increase. We need to ensure that manpower in this sector is available to meet the surge in demand. Besides social workers and therapists, eldercare centres and community hospitals will also need people with other skill sets in areas such as IT, financial and management skills.

Singaporeans need to change their mindset about jobs in this sector. We can encourage PMETs (professionals, managers, executives and technicians) looking for a career switch to consider joining the social sector. They bring with them a wealth of corporate best practices. We can also harness the vast experience of retirees by re-training them to work in perhaps less physically demanding roles in this sector. We can also encourage corporate volunteering, so as to complement the paid workers in this sector. Finally, we should consider integrating the physically disabled into the workforce meaningfully so that they can find dignified employment and at the same time be self-sufficient.

Ingrid Sidiadinoto
Managing Director
UPS Singapore

AS SMEs make up 99 per cent of businesses in Singapore, supporting their growth beyond the domestic market is essential to ensure our economic vibrancy. But, to be competitive, SMEs must transform their business practices to be able to stand out among regional counterparts.

We agree with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong that we must support SMEs by "building links with the region and the world" and help them navigate the complexities of trade. The TPP is an important step in the right direction as it addresses many of the obstacles surrounding cross-border clearance, and provides an enabling environment for e-commerce. It is critical that Singapore continues to pursue such standards with its major trading partners to maximise opportunities for its SMEs.

Rex Dong
Managing Director, Asia Sales and Marketing
Seagate Technology

TIME and time again, training and upskilling workers has proven to be the best solution to maintain a country's value in a challenging global economy, and to even accelerate the bounce back from a slump. This is a position that the government has prioritised, and is a path that our leaders should continue on to ensure long-term economic growth. For a business such as Seagate which invests heavily in R&D, intellectual talent is the bedrock of our capacity to innovate and differentiate. That is why we think that the economic committee should consider how it can work even closer with businesses to create and support programmes that recognise and nurture talent.

Tan Mui Huat
President and Chief Executive Officer, Asia
International SOS

SINGAPORE'S ability to remain flexible and adaptable is key to our future success. We need to develop a more innovative culture and innovative companies to harness an increasingly connected and digital world. Constant innovation needs to be part of our DNA; it is what our clients expect of us and what we will need for Singapore to remain vibrant and attractive to investments and talents.

We must enable our SMEs and our homegrown talents to develop by expanding their global footprint. In tapping into overseas markets, SMEs have to assess a host of new operational, medical, safety and security challenges. With the world becoming increasingly complex politically, socially and economically, SMEs will need to ensure that they have the necessary knowledge and a robust network to navigate, protect their employees and ensure business continuity.

Melissa Ries
Vice President and General Manager
Pivotal Asia-Pacific

SINGAPORE has done well in living up to its principle of anticipating change and staying relevant amid a fast-changing business and economic landscape. With speed and agility clearly the currency of business in today's information-driven economy, continued innovation is key for Singapore to further its progress and retain its position among global cities. Technology will serve as a booster for businesses - organisations in Singapore should, therefore, be looking to leverage smart technology that leverages the cloud, new platforms and which can unlock the value of Big Data for increased efficiency gains.

Redesigning technology structures and investing in the development of new skills will also help to future-proof business, increasing productivity and thus boosting the economy. With Singapore well-positioned to leverage opportunities for greater economic development in ASEAN once the AEC 2015 is in place, facilitating the implementation of these technologies across economies will be the crucial next step in enabling the country's economy to remain vibrant.

Natalia Shuman
Senior Vice President and General Manager, EMEA and Apac Regions
Kelly Services Singapore

WHILE Singapore cannot be completely shielded from global market volatility, we can equip Singaporeans with the right knowledge and skills so they remain relevant, competitive and in demand. The government is already taking steps in the right direction with skills-upgrading initiatives such as SkillsFuture and the PMET Career Support Scheme, and can continue to do more.

The Singapore workforce is shifting to more fluid work styles, led by demand for flexibility and freedom amongst workers across the board. On the same note, it is timely for companies to review and think through employment expectations and relationships between employers and employees. The backdrop of slowing global growth is the perfect opportunity for companies to optimise their talent supply chain to include the rising trend of free agents in the workforce for the long term. With strong support from a policy standpoint, Singapore can transform into one of the leading Asian countries where companies look at their internal and external talent needs holistically and optimise the full spectrum of talent whether they be full-time employers or free agents.

By embracing this concept of talent supply chain management, Singapore companies integrate a talent mix in their workforce strategy that will enable them to become more nimble, productive and efficient to stay buoyant amid global market uncertainties.

Jessica Tan
Managing Director
Microsoft Singapore

OPPORTUNITIES exist regardless of the state of the global economy; the new world will have new requirements, new opportunities. To harvest these opportunities and chart the path to economic growth for Singapore, we need to ensure that we have the right ecosystem in place to foster growth through innovation and creation.

Beyond the ability to innovate and create, Singapore needs to be able to build on ideation. Our investments in areas such as R&D and the startup community are beginning to pay dividends. To scale the impact of these investments and create organic growth, we will have to retrain and ready our workforce for tomorrow's smart economy - one that is increasingly digitised for networked intelligence.

This future of Singapore is a "future of us", one that government, businesses and citizens have a stake in to achieve inclusive growth. More challenging perhaps, than nurturing new skill sets and capabilities, is our ability and readiness to embrace fresh mindsets as the future will not be quite the same as what we know today.

Ang Thiam Guan
Managing Director for Singapore and Brunei

WHILE we can't know where the future takes us, what we can do is be receptive to innovation and new ideas, remaining adaptable and future-ready. The announcement of trial driverless vehicles last week may mean we need fewer drivers for public buses and trains, but there will definitely be an increased need for engineers and designers to build, maintain and improve the fleet of driverless vehicles. As technology continues to disrupt and pervade industry, skill sets that enable and protect collaboration, creativity and connectivity will become trump cards across all industries. Our institutes of higher education are being proactive by embracing the Internet of Everything in learning and across their campuses. Singapore's advantage is in staying nimble, adapting quickly, learning everything and embracing the future.

Fabian Wong
Chief Executive Officer
Philips ASEAN and Pacific

FOR decades, Singapore has made a mark on the world stage with our appetite for innovation, skilled labour and strong infrastructure. Even as the global economy slows, we must continue to invest in innovation, and apply these skill sets to deliver solutions on a global scale.

Take ageing and chronic illnesses - which are predominant in Singapore and many other parts of the world today. If we were to combine our strengths in talent, infrastructure and openness to innovation, we can deliver innovative lifestyle and healthcare solutions that not only address local needs but also solve pressing global issues.

As a country, we should continue to be seen as an innovation partner that catalyses cross-cluster and cross-border innovations. Singapore should be more than a test bed for innovation - we need to become a nation that brings disruptive innovations to life.

Hari Krishnan
Managing Director, Asia-Pacific and Japan

I EXPECT the talent agenda to continue to feature prominently when the committee on "The Future Economy" convenes.

Singapore's success has been linked to its strategic policies on human capital, resulting in the great talent pool we see today. This continues to create jobs and fuel foreign direct investments, both key economic drivers.

In the face of potentially significant economic headwinds, I believe the quality and relevance of the talent pool here will continue to be a key leverage and differentiator for the country.

Clinical research, user experience design and information security specialists are amongst the 10 most sought-after occupations in Singapore, as indicated by recent activity on our platform. Finding answers to key questions such as which occupations and skills will be most relevant in future, and how do we secure or develop these talents before others do, will go a long way towards future-proofing Singapore amid any challenges.

Ronald Lee
Managing Director
PrimeStaff Management Services

WHILE the situation is not dire, it is clear that Singapore has been progressively losing its competitive edge to its regional neighbours in recent years.

We really need to be more agile in anticipating and developing strategies to address the future economic and other challenges that Singapore may face.

If more advanced planning had been done during the boom years, we could have perhaps avoided the painful economic restructuring of the past few years. Or at the very least, mitigated its impact.

I believe we are now on the right track in terms of shifting gears to move our economy up the value chain as well as all the assistance programmes for businesses, which include providing support for local companies to venture overseas in view of Singapore's challenging business environment.

But more can always be done to enhance the assistance schemes, and have them rolled out at a faster pace. The time taken from conducting economic and policy reviews to implementing the necessary framework should not take too long as businesses need timely assistance right now.

Terry Smagh
Managing Director and Vice President
Qlik Asia

THERE are multiple factors impacting the state of our economy. While we have limited control over external factors, we have the opportunity to extract insights from all data sources to make decisions and strategise for economic success.

Amid slowing global growth, there is an even more pressing need for us to leverage technology more effectively and become more agile, and responsive to market movements and opportunities. Singapore is already on the right track with the focus on strengthening its digital economy with the aim to become the world's first smart nation. Businesses and employees need to work smarter and become more data-driven. Being able to see the whole story behind data helps businesses to become more agile, productive, and successful.

Robin C Lee
Group Chief Operating Officer
Bok Seng Group

DESPITE our efforts in land reclamation and space-efficient planning, it is a fact that Singapore's natural resources have their limits. As always, what fuels our country is the high quality of our workforce as well as the well-oiled systems that enable our country to thrive. Efficiency is the bedrock of our economy, negating our scarcity in labour, space and natural resources. It is something we have to continue to nurture to allow us to grow.

We must remain deeply involved with the world economies through trade pacts like the TPP, trading aggressively yet fairly to bring great benefits to our country. While engaging the open world, we must continue to cultivate our very own smart city initiatives with focus on skills development to ensure that we have the best possible infrastructure and highly skilled workforce to face all competition. With all these in place, we can then continue to produce desirable services and products that can be exported to the rest of the world, creating valuable offshore revenue. However, to make this happen we cannot rely solely on MNCs; we need to continue to focus on business clusters that consist of fragmented local SMEs and incentivise them to band together to form more powerful companies to secure their (and our) place in the world.

Paul Henaghan
EMC South-east Asia

THE slowing global growth has highlighted the need for companies to anticipate and address fundamental marketplace shifts that affect the business even before they occur. If information is the currency of our digital age, then knowledge is the coin of the realm. Companies and government organisations competing in today's turbulent environment need to underpin technology for agility, intelligence and efficiency. This will enable them to better understand the pulse of the ever-evolving business landscape, reinvent themselves, and generate new ideas based on insightful business insights.

The new economic committee needs to continue positioning Singapore as the forerunner in innovation and technology, especially as the AEC 2015 blueprint brings new opportunities and equitable economic development into the ASEAN region. Technology will be the crucial layer that will propel businesses farther, and take Singapore closer to its Smart Nation Vision.

David Leong
Managing Director
PeopleWorldwide Consulting Pte Ltd

MINISTER Heng Swee Keat has a daunting task - to formulate a new economic framework that can future-proof our economy. Singapore's businesses are undergoing tremendous stress tests with limited human capital. If the government does not support sufficient foreign manpower, the economy is unlikely to scale up on the back of increased productivity. The only way is to shift production to other ASEAN countries, capitalising on the year-end rollout of the AEC's initiatives including a freer flow of human capital within the borders of the regional grouping.

The government's strong advocacy on internationalisation must be intensified. The new economic committee should explore ways to help Singaporean companies to fly out of our limitations, particularly into ASEAN, where the markets are larger and the flow of goods, services and human capital will be less inhibitive.

Hoe Yeen Teck
Chief Executive Officer and Country Manager

SINGAPORE'S inherent small market size means we have no choice but to remain open to international markets. We need to make sure our policies remain conducive for foreign investment into Singapore, as well as encourage local enterprises to expand regionally and internationally. Our workforce needs to get the right skills training and mindsets to remain adaptable to changing work requirements, starting from schooling age.

At the same time, "smart" apps like Helpling are starting to unlock previously untapped manpower resources, such as back-to-work women and other economically inactive groups. More and more people are also moving away from traditional full-time employment into part-time employment and self-employment. These trends are here to stay, and the new committee should examine how to adjust policies to take them into account in their manpower and skills programmes.

Gerald Foo
Walton International Group (S) Pte Ltd

AMID slowing global growth, MNCs have restructured to remain competitive (case in point: Coca-Cola's impending factory closure in Tuas) and Singapore needs to relook our MNC-SME environment to ensure that local companies stay relevant and competitive as well. MNCs may relocate but our SMEs are here to stay and they hire the bulk of our workforce (over 70 per cent). They are undoubtedly the backbone of the Singapore economy and merit more attention as Singapore moves forward, regardless of the global economic climate.

The government has helped SMEs to up the ante through initiatives like iSPRINT and the Productivity and Innovation Credit Scheme but more could be done to keep SMEs to stay ahead of the curve in the business arena. The development of global value chains may have offered SMEs new opportunities by enabling them to expand their business activities overseas but SMEs are often out-muscled by MNCs when it comes to winning contracts.

The government could counteract by awarding deserving SMEs more contracts and providing them with international exposure. With such support, I am sure Singapore will no longer be viewed as a little red dot but as a shimmering red star on the world map when that happens.

Wong Heng Chew
Fujitsu Singapore

SINGAPORE has long been a country that has managed to overcome many of its limitations through the use of technology. As such, continued investment in innovations will benefit the economy in the long run, since rapid advances in ICT (information and communications technology) have been proven to address the big challenges of both businesses and society.

At Fujitsu, we believe that true innovation comes from working with people to create solutions for them, where technology can empower people to bring about better lives. We call it Human Centric Innovation, where the focus is on enabling human creativity, rather than on raw technology. In fact, Fujitsu is already helping companies transform their businesses with insight generation and large gains in efficiency through our cloud computing, Big Data and mobility solutions.

There are many problems in the world today, and while we recognise that there are no straightforward solutions, investing in ICT will enable us to address many of these issues, which we feel will ultimately help Singapore weather the ebb and flow of the global economy.

Mike Ansley
President, Asia-Pacific

PRODUCTIVITY and labour crunch have been the pain points of businesses in Singapore. An agile and adaptable workforce is essential for continued growth and vibrancy of the Singapore economy. Singapore also boasts high mobile penetration of more than 150 per cent and strong government support initiatives like the recent free Wi-Fi pilot at bus stops and train stations to improve its hyper-connectedness across the nation. The opportunity remains for businesses to take advantage of our connectivity, and empower the mobile workforce. By equipping them with unified communications and collaboration capabilities, employees are able to better engage within teams and with customers for better decision-making and business outcomes. Singapore's first 50 years have been full of dynamic growth, energy, and constant evolution. By arming ourselves with the right tools for enabling the workforce, Singapore will be able to better embrace rapid change, and look forward to a highly exciting future.

Matthieu Destot
Vice President for Asia-Pacific
Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise

AMID a possible global economic downturn, Singapore must transform and rebrand its economy to stay ahead of the competition. Beyond being a smart nation, Singapore can be positioned as a nation of "smart businesses", comprised of organisations that are well-invested in industry-leading technologies, to truly stand out from the competition. Because of this commitment to innovation, technology and automation during periods of economic downturn, they would be in a better position to both scale and regain growth, compared to their competitors, when the economy recovers.

An enterprise network infrastructure, which plays a significant role in managing and controlling the mobile devices on the network as well as ensure the upkeep of real-time communications, offers businesses an opportunity to develop recession-proof capabilities. A network with intelligent fabric technology, for example, is able to adjust based on traffic needs and automatically present recommendations, freeing up both time and resources from network operations and maintenance that can be better channelled to pursuing innovation and business growth.

Rohith Murthy
Managing Director

LOOKING at Singapore's economic success, we believe there are three factors that have set it apart from its neighbours. First, its strategic location in South-east Asia is conducive for maritime trading and enables it to function as a regional harbour. Second, its clean and efficient governance has accelerated growth of world-class infrastructure and ease of doing business. Third, it has welcomed foreign direct investment and MNCs to set up regional hubs.

All these are equally important for Singapore to sustain a vibrant economy. In order to continue this growth, Singapore will need to invest in disruptive global technologies and trends to develop skills locally. To stay ahead of regional and global competition, Singapore will need to move from a "Make in Singapore" model to a "Born in Singapore" paradigm by developing a habitat for local entrepreneurship and innovation.

Dora Hoan
Group Chief Executive Officer
Best World International Ltd

TO ensure that Singapore's economy remains vibrant amid slowing global growth, the tax rate has to remain attractively low. We also need to address SMEs' concerns such as shortage of manpower. Therefore, the Ministry of Manpower may need to consider relaxing the foreign worker quotas for some industries such as construction, cleaning and food and beverages.

Grants and incentives should be attractive enough to encourage employers to recruit, train and retain locals and mature workers to meet their manpower needs and upgrade the Singaporean workforce. There should also be incentives to help local companies expand overseas.

In view of the volatility in the regional currencies of late, which adds to the uncertainties for businesses, it is hoped that the regional economies can work to stabilise the ASEAN exchange rates.

Overall, I'd like to propose a "Team Singapore, Brand Singapore" slogan for the economic review by Mr Heng Swee Keat's new committee.

Chris Comer
Chief Executive Officer
Castlewood Group

IF you look around at most markets globally, regardless of size, almost every one is slowing. However, for a small city-state such as ours with minimal natural resources, sustainable growth is even more crucial as there are very few core industries to prop up the economy in turbulent times.

Productivity-driven growth has been on the government's agenda ever since the Financial Crisis of 2008. So now that we are seeing slowdown in even giants like China, there should be a renewed focus on diversification to help us restructure our economy in line with the rapidly changing global economic situation.

For example, certain sectors such as luxury tourism are extremely resilient to volatility in market conditions, as the wealthy will go on holiday regardless. Wooing high net-worth travellers to our shores could help in sustaining consistent revenue flows to our economy.

Christophe Duchatellier
Chief Executive Officer
Adecco Apac

TO remain vibrant, Singapore should have a long-term vision for the next quarter century. After deciding on a strategy to remain a strong nation, the second action is to operate the "how": how can Singapore remain vibrant? In Adecco, we believe that any strategy must start by investing in growing a talented and skilled workforce, followed by matching talent with the right opportunity. To do so, a smart triangular co-operation - between educational institutions, industries and public services - is necessary to align skills with businesses that will drive economic growth. Employees now understand that they will have to switch jobs - and maybe industries - several times throughout their careers. As the world becomes more globalised and digitalised, it is important to engage the efforts of the workforce early on and to see them develop as planners with adaptable, collaborative and transferable skills. There is a strong correlation between talent adaptability, productivity and growth.

Nirvik Singh
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer
Grey Group Asia-Pacific

THE bigger question, as Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said, is: "Where do we want Singapore to be in 20 years' time?"

For a developed country without natural resources, Singapore has to position itself to be able to grow even during a global slowdown. Economic integration and technology will create greater opportunities for many countries including Singapore.

As Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat said recently: "To remain relevant, the country has to move towards higher skills, higher productivity and an innovation-intensive economy."

This means more focus on talent acquisition, R&D and moving towards a Smart Nation Vision. This will keep Singapore ahead of the game.

As globalisation continues, economies from developed countries will eventually recover, though each will have its own challenges. Nearer home, the role that China and India plays will increase in importance and the ASEAN countries will also contribute to the region's growth.

With a world-class workforce, political stability and an excellent education system, Singapore can be confident it can compete with the rest of the developed countries on the world stage.

This article was first published on October 19, 2015.
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