Let's create value and share it: Heng Swee Keat

For every Singaporean to realise his dreams, Singapore must continue to create value and share that value among its people, Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat told Parliament yesterday.

The Republic can achieve this by being an innovation laboratory for the world, where good ideas can be turned into useful products and services, he added.

"If we can be a place to help solve a fraction of the world's challenges, we will create value - we will have our place in the world," he said, adding that the Committee on the Future Economy, which he chairs, will study this in detail.

His speech came at the tail end of the five-day debate on the President's Address, after 62 MPs, including Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, spoke.

They covered issues ranging from Singapore's safety and security to the economic renewal and how to build a more caring society. PM Lee had also spoken about proposed changes to Singapore's Non-Constituency MP and Elected President schemes.

Yesterday, painting an image of Singapore as the world's sandbox, where ideas can be perfected, Mr Heng urged Singaporeans to ride the new wave of invention and economic disruption.

If Singapore is to thrive in the new global economy, it must stay open, innovative, adaptive to change, and remain useful to the world, he said.

To this end, he added, Singapore is well-placed to succeed, thanks to three conditions: it has no choice but to innovate, no lack of support to do so, and no limit to its imagination.

Since its founding, Singapore has faced challenges which spur innovation, from a lack of water to an ageing population, he said.

The country has also been investing in research and development and connecting with the world, making it well-placed to serve as a global hub for ideas.

Singapore's imagination is also limitless, he added. "We may not realise this, but we are a people with a habit of innovation, and a habit of applying innovation in every aspect of our life," said Mr Heng, citing policy innovations such as the Central Provident Fund scheme.

But creating value alone does not guarantee success, and innovation, prosperity, progress and growth "achieve their true value when they are shared".

"If we want to move forward together, we must share value, in a fair and inclusive way," he said. "A Singapore that is of value to the world must be of even deeper value and meaning to Singaporeans."

He added that being inclusive is not just about redistributing wealth, which can run out if it is not grown. Instead, it is important to foster conditions that will provide opportunities for current and future generations.

To this end, education will make sure that "every Singaporean, regardless of family background or starting point, is empowered to build a better life".

Healthcare and housing are also major avenues through which the Government shares value with citizens, he added. "Healthcare to keep us active and vigorous in our lifetime; and housing to build our life and family."

Mr Heng said the impulse to build an inclusive society goes beyond policies and is reflected in Singaporeans' everyday lives, like when people care for one another.

"There is a richness to our relationships, reflected in the way we lead our daily lives - as peers and equals, regardless of class, status, race, religion or age. The quality of these relationships cannot be measured by metrics like GDP (gross domestic product)."

As Singapore plots its path ahead, it should also be guided by two principles encapsulated in the answers to the questions "so what" and "what for", said Mr Heng.

When faced with changes and challenges, he told the almost-full House, always consider how it will impact Singaporeans, and how to help the country succeed.

He added that while methods by which Singapore must progress will change as circumstances change, the goal of progress will stay the same: "To build a Singapore where every Singaporean can reach our dreams."


This article was first published on January 30, 2016.
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