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Asian countries need to focus on skills, scale and sustainability: Iswaran

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Asia has to focus on skills development, market scale through economic connectivity and fiscal, economic and social policies that are sustainable.

ASIA has to focus on skills development, market scale through economic connectivity and fiscal, economic and social policies that are sustainable.

Low cost "cannot be the basis of long-term sustainable competitiveness", said S Iswaran, Minister in the Prime Minister's Office, at the annual Asia Competitiveness Institute Conference on Wednesday. Mr Iswaran is also the Second Minister for Home Affairs, as well as for Trade and Industry.

In his speech, he said countries must enhance their competitiveness by investing in measures to raise the skills of their workforce, and the productivity of their economy.

"This can be done through continual education and training, encouraging innovation among companies, and helping them to be integrated into global supply chains to exploit economies of scale," he said.

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Still, he noted that such efforts need to be accompanied by sound environmental, social and fiscal policies to ensure that the growth generated is sustainable.

"If we succeed in doing so, we will be able to anchor vibrant companies, create good jobs and raise the living standards of their people."

Citing the example of the small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) productivity benchmarking exercise that the institute is working on with Spring Singapore, in consultation with the European Central Bank, Mr Iswaran noted that these initiatives help policymakers better understand how to encourage firms to be more efficient.

Benchmarking Singapore SMEs to regional SMEs will help to shed light on the areas that need further attention, and enable policymakers to formulate better policies and more targeted programmes, he added.

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