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Four principles to guide Future Economy panel

The four "I"s are what the Committee on the Future Economy (CFE) will focus on, said its chairman, Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat, after the panel's first meeting on Monday.


THE four "I"s are what the Committee on the Future Economy (CFE) will focus on, said its chairman, Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat, after the panel's first meeting on Monday.

These are investments in people and knowledge, innovation, integration, and internationalisation - the four principles which will guide the CFE's work until the end of this year.

"Investing in people and knowledge (is important) so that we have a knowledge base of skills, attitudes, and values to be able to ride this wave of change," said Mr Heng, referring to ongoing technological disruptions and the rapidly changing global environment.

Innovation, meanwhile, needs to be pervasive in order for Singapore to move beyond a value-adding economy and become a value-creating one.

The CFE will also focus on integration - to see how the country can leverage its existing strengths across various sectors. "We need to take a more multi-disciplinary approach to bring the different strengths together. That way we can provide more integrated solutions to the world," said Mr Heng.

He added that the final "I", internationalisation, is crucial for Singapore firms to overcome the limitations of a small domestic market.

The 30-strong CFE - whose members were first announced last December - has been charged with looking into Singapore's next stage of economic development, with a focus on "sustainable growth that creates value and opportunities for all".

At the group's meeting on Monday - which spanned over two hours - the CFE formed five sub-committees, with each co-chaired by a minister and private-sector CFE member. These groups will draw in additional representatives for a wider range of expert views.

The five sub-committees, their respective co-chairs, and their key areas of study are:

  • Future Corporate Capabilities and Innovation: Heng Swee Keat, Minister for Finance, and Teo Siong Seng, chairman, Singapore Business Federation. This group will explore how firms and industry clusters can create value using technology as well as new business models.
  • Future Growth Industries and Markets: S Iswaran, Minister for Trade and Industry (Industry), and Jean-Luc Butel, president, K8 Global, and senior adviser, McKinsey & Company.

This group will identify and recommend strategies to grow priority clusters and markets that will drive the global economy of the future.

  • Future of Connectivity: Chan Chun Sing, Minister, Prime Minister's Office and secretary-general of the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC), and Mariam Jaafar, partner and managing director (Singapore), Boston Consulting Group. Members will study how Singapore can remain a competitive and key hub, even as trends affect how the global economy is reconfigured.
  • Future City: Lawrence Wong, Minister for National Development, and Tan Chong Meng, group chief executive officer, PSA International. This sub-committee will study ways to overcome resource constraints and enhance infrastructure.
  • Future Jobs and Skills: Ong Ye Kung, Acting Minister for Education (Higher Education and Skills), and Bill Chang, country chief officer, Singapore and CEO, Group Enterprise, Singtel. This group will recommend ways to prepare Singaporean workers for the future, taking into account demographic and technological trends.

The CFE is expected to meet once every three months, on top of sub-committee meetings and thematic discussions.

Asked by BT for his response to economy watchers' scepticism that the CFE report will contain any watershed moves, Mr Heng stressed the unlikelihood of any change being "transformational in one stroke". The goal, he said, is for Singapore to be in a more competitive and productive position five or 10 years down the road.

"I don't think there is one silver bullet that says "do X and therefore we transform our economy to Y the next day". I think what is more likely to happen is that if we embark on the right course and put the right amount of thinking and resources into it, you will see that over the medium term, the economy will be very different from where we are today."

CFE member Saktiandi Supaat, Maybank head of foreign exchange research, also told BT that he sees "no limit to growth" - provided the economy innovates and capitalises on technological developments successfully.

While companies may wish for more help with business costs, Minister for Trade and Industry (Industry) S Iswaran - the CFE's deputy chairman - emphasised the panel's need to look beyond cost concerns.

"Cost is there as an ongoing consideration in any business environment, but we need to focus on opportunities - and capabilities to seize those opportunities. How do we organise ourselves to better capture that value? I think that's really where a lot of the attention is focused on, especially in the medium to long term," said Mr Iswaran.