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Bespoke roadmaps for over 20 economic sectors in the works: Heng

As part of industry transformation scheme, a team of officers will serve each of the sectors that together account for over 80% of the economy
Tuesday, March 29, 2016 - 05:50

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(Left to right) Dr Koh, Mr Heng, Singapore Precision Engineering & Technology Association adviser Steven Koh and Feinmetall Singapore general manager Sam Chee Wah at a tour of the local precision engineering firm based in Marsiling Industrial Estate.

Singapore

THE government will come up with bespoke plans for more than 20 economic sectors in Singapore to help them better meet the needs of the future economy, said Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat on Monday.

These industry transformation roadmaps, as they are called, will help the sectors boost productivity levels, invest more heavily in skills, drive innovation and promote internationalisation.

The roadmaps will have initiatives catered to the needs of companies within that specific industry, and will be adjusted when necessary to ensure they remain current and relevant. They are part of the new billion-dollar Industry Transformation Programme (ITP) that was announced by Mr Heng at last week's Budget. The ITP is a S$4.5 billion package targeted at providing support to firms and industries while driving innovation.

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A team of officers will be set up to serve each of the 20-plus sectors, which collectively account for more than 80 per cent of the economy. They include logistics, precision engineering, tourism, retail and food & beverage.

The officers will come from government agencies such as the Economic Development Board, Spring Singapore, International Enterprise Singapore, the Agency for Science, Technology and Research, and the Workforce Development Agency.

These officers, known as "cluster champions", will be the primary point of contact for the sector and they will actively engage the trade associations and companies.

"We will systematically go through, sector by sector, all the different plans. We need to bring everyone together," said Mr Heng after touring the premises of Feinmetall Singapore, a local precision engineering firm based in Marsiling Industrial Estate.

Mr Heng, who is also the chair of the Committee on the Future Economy, was speaking to the media for the first time since delivering the Budget statement in parliament last Thursday.

He stressed that while the ITP itself was important, it was equally critical to develop and maintain a strong partnership between companies, government agencies, and industry associations and business chambers.

"If we can do this well, we will build much more competitive, productive and innovative industries. All the industries coming together will then create a much more vibrant economy," he said.

"In that way, we can create better jobs for the people, and better opportunities for many other companies to start up in Singapore."

The minister shared that the government already has elements of all the different plans in place, be it in the training of staff, making use of technology, and ways to raise productivity.

"What we need to do is to integrate these plans into a coherent one, where the different parts can come together. We need to bring industry associations as well as companies, big or small, together. Then, we can have a much better alignment of our efforts," he added.

When asked when the industry transformation roadmaps would be ready, Mr Heng said that the logistics and precision engineering sectors were among those where discussions are already at a "more advanced stage".

Minister of State for Trade and Industry Koh Poh Koon, who was also part of the delegation that visited Feinmetall, said that his ministry placed a certain focus on the precision engineering sector because it accounts for S$8.9 billion of the industry's value-add.

"That comes to nearly 14 per cent of Singapore's manufacturing value-add, or 2.6 per cent of our GDP (gross domestic product) in 2014," said Dr Koh.

The sector employs some 94,000 people, or about one out of every four manufacturing jobs. It also brings about S$94,400 in terms of value-add per worker.

Dr Koh noted that the sector's compound annual growth rate from 2008 to 2014 was 5.8 per cent, more than double the 2.5 per cent in the 2002-2008 period.

"That kind of growth has allowed our precision engineering sector to close the value-added gap between Singapore and the more advanced economies like Japan, Germany and the United States," he said.

"(Precision engineering) is obviously one area that we do want to put an emphasis on, to ensure that the industry continues to transform."

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