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THE government has a budget of up to S$100 million over the next five years to enhance Singapore's quality and standards (Q&S) eco-system, Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam announced on Tuesday.
The money will also be used to support small and medium-sized enterprises in their standards adoption projects, he said.
In a speech on the importance of Q&S in Singapore's future economy, he said: "Our Q&S eco-system remains critical for the future. It will be a key pillar of the innovation-driven economy that we must be, and must provide full support for the directions being developed by the Committee on the Future Economy."
He was speaking at a dinner held to celebrate 50 years of quality and standards in Singapore. Organised by Spring Singapore, the Singapore Standards Council and the Singapore Accreditation Council, the dinner was held at the Resorts World Convention Centre. It was among the events lined up by Spring to mark the 50th year of the Singapore Standardisation Programme and the 30th year of the Singapore Accreditation Programme.
Mr Tharman, the Coordinating Minister for Economic and Social Policies, outlined two key roles that Q&S must play for it to be a major pillar of the future economy.
The first is to support market access for Singapore companies in a "rapidly evolving and intensively competitive" global market; the second is to spur innovation.
On spurring innovation, he noted that new standards are being developed in emerging industries, even as new technologies are being rolled out. "Singapore is therefore plugging itself into the global standards conversations, so as to ensure that our companies are among the first movers as new international standards are launched."
Mr Tharman spent time praising the achievements of Singapore's "quality journey" over the last half-century, which has underpinned the country's economic and social development to this day.
He said that after Singapore gained independence in 1965, it had to be relevant to the world in order to survive.
"Q&S was vital in ensuring that the products and components made in Singapore met global standards, including the stringent demands of leading MNCs and their customers worldwide."
To drive home his point that Q&S has improved the quality of life in Singapore, he said building and construction standards have resulted in "safe homes" for more than a million families in HDB flats since the 1960s.
He also pointed out that Singapore had in 2012 launched the world's first water efficiency management systems standard, which has helped bring water bills down and protect the water supply.
"Q&S has been a quiet contributor to Singapore's growth and development, but a critical one."
He added that Spring Singapore, the statutory board responsible for helping Singapore enterprises grow and building trust in local products and services, would continue to work with its local and overseas partners to enhance the Q&S eco-system.
Spring said in a statement on Tuesday that last year, it developed and reviewed 120 Singapore standards and built a robust accreditation system with more than 300 competent Conformity Assessment Bodies. Nearly 670 companies were supported by Spring in their standards adoption projects last year.
In his speech, Mr Tharman added that Singapore would continue to participate actively in developing and setting standards, especially on the councils of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC), and to extend the reach of its Q&S network.
The ISO is a Geneva-based non-governmental body with a membership of 163 national standards bodies; the IEC, the central office of which is in Geneva, prepares and publishes international standards for all electrical, electronic and related technologies.
Mr Tharman also said that Singapore would leverage its various bilateral and multilateral free trade agreements to reduce technical barriers to trade. In a speech at a conference on quality and standards on Wednesday, Industry Minister S Iswaran will elaborate on Singapore's strategies to achieve its new Q&S vision.