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2 sub-groups hold their respective first meeting

Members examine ways to upgrade skills, seek overseas opportunities, keep pace with rapid future development

PSA's Mr Tan says that Singapore, with its limited space, has to be bold in transforming its future landscape.


TWO of the Committee on the Future Economy's (CFE) five sub-groups - one looking at "future jobs and skills", the other on the "future city" - had their first meetings on Monday.

The former was co-chaired by Acting Education Minister (Higher Education and Skills) Ong Ye Kung, and Singtel's chief country officer in Singapore and CEO of group enterprise Bill Chang.

Fifteen of the 17 members in the sub-committee on jobs and skills were present at the closed-door meeting held at the Singapore University of Technology and Design's East Coast campus.

Several corporate chiefs are part of this diverse group, including Standard Chartered Bank's Singapore CEO Judy Hsu, The Ascott CEO Lee Chee Koon and Ogilvy Public Relations managing director Chong Ee Rong.

Their agenda was to recommend ways to prepare Singaporean workers for the future, taking into account demographic and technological trends that will affect the workforce.

Speaking to reporters at the end of their three-hour discussion, Mr Ong shared that they talked about issues such as building an entrepreneurial spirit and recognising the importance of looking beyond Singapore to find good jobs.

"There are tremendous opportunities. Overseas, whether it's China or India, within the region or beyond, these are all big business spaces and big consumer markets. There are many jobs we can seize if we are prepared to go out and venture," said the minister.

Mr Chang noted that technological advances in key sectors such as manufacturing could result in some jobs being lost, but he stressed that workers should also take advantage of new openings as well.

"There will be new opportunities and job scopes for our people (as a result of advanced automation), and there's a need for our people to understand these opportunities, to upgrade and build up the skills that are going to be very relevant tomorrow," he said.

Meanwhile, the 21 members of the sub-committee on the "future city" began brainstorming for ideas to enable Singapore to continue developing its infrastructure, to support future growth in an inclusive and sustainable manner, and to enhance connectivity with the region.

This group is co-chaired by National Development Minister Lawrence Wong and PSA International group CEO Tan Chong Meng.

Among the others who are involved are Boustead managing director Thomas Chu, Ascendas president and CEO Manohar Khiatani and Keppel Corp CEO Loh Chin Hua.

Some suggestions that they agreed to study further in the coming months include strategies to achieve more flexibility and better integration across different users of land, and to increase mobility options for individuals and companies.

They also talked about new technologies that could be positive disruptors, and offer new solutions to address Singapore's resource constraints and challenges.

In a statement, Mr Wong made the point that the pace of change in Singapore's next lap of development would be faster than before. Therefore, the country's urban structures and infrastructural solutions had to keep pace in order to remain relevant in the global economy.

"We are looking not just at hard physical infrastructure, but also the 'software' aspects. This includes strengthening our abilities to integrate solutions across different domains; to forge closer collaborations between the people, private and public sectors; and to respond nimbly to new opportunities and trends. At the same time, we must retain our distinctive identity and heritage, even as we develop our future city," he said.

Mr Tan added that Singapore, with its limited space, has to be bold in transforming its future landscape.

"Our small size requires us to plan ahead carefully, with innovative infrastructural solutions that will allow businesses to maintain their competitive lead," he said, citing how PSA was busy planning for a new generation maritime hub at Tuas which would be more productive and free up land at the city terminals.

Both committees said that they would consult widely with other stakeholders, including members of the public, throughout the course of their upcoming meetings.

The CFE's three other sub-groups are on "future connectivity", "future growth industries and markets", and "future corporate capabilities and innovation".

The 30-member CFE, chaired by Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat, had its inaugural meeting on Jan 11 and it aims to complete its work by the year's end.